Dr. James D. Sterling Talks about Studying with Olga Silverstein

Dr. James D. Sterling

Dr. James D. Sterling

Dr. James D. Sterling has enjoyed a long, successful career of private practice and clinical instruction. Studying with some of the most respected therapists of our time, including Olga Silverstein, has enriched his years of experience. Olga Silverstein, as Dr. James D. Sterling points out, was on the faculty of the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Dr. James D. Sterling says Silverstein was a renowned therapist and author whose approach to family therapy shaped his own approaches. Dr. James D. Sterling shares his experiences with Silverstein below.

Q: Olga Silverstein seemed to have touched many lives during her time with the Ackerman Institute for the Family.

Dr. James D. Sterling: Ms. Silverstein died at 87 years of age and the tributes were remarkable. She was a very gifted therapist. She never shied away from taking on the most difficult and apparently intractable cases, which she treated with patience and graceful insight.

Q: Judging by her many published books, she had some very popular theories on family therapy.

Dr. James D. Sterling: Her book The Courage to Raise Good Men is still popular today. The book helped mothers achieve the balance between having a close relationship with their male children and allowing those children to assert their independence.

Q: Ms. Silverstein specifically mentioned a boy is expected to leave home at a certain age.

Dr. James D. Sterling: Yes, she observed that in society, it seems to be expected that a boy will begin to separate from home and family in adolescence.

Q: And how did she feel this impacts the mother?

Dr. James D. Sterling: She felt this resulted in a feeling of abandonment in the mother. She believed our culture should rethink old stereotypes of the mother-son relationship.

Q: Olga Silverstein was on the faculty of the Ackerman Institute for the Family. Could you tell us a little more about this facility?

Dr. James D. Sterling: The Ackerman Institute is a renowned research and training facility, specializing in the area of family therapy.

Q: Could you provide some examples of what the Ackerman Institute is currently doing?

Dr. James D. Sterling: One of the Institute’s many focuses is the lack of diversity in family therapy. While nearly half of the country’s population will be minorities by the year 2050, the number of minority family therapists is alarmingly low. Four percent nationally, to be exact.

Q: How has Olga Silverstein’s legacy lived on through the Institute?

Dr. James D. Sterling: The Olga Silverstein Training award is given each year to a deserving student in the Institute’s clinical program.

Q: What other research did Ms. Silverstein pioneer?

Dr. James D. Sterling: In the mid-70s, she and Peggy Papp co-founded the Brief Therapy Project, which created strategic interventions that can be found in a training film called “Who’s Depressed?”

Q: Was there more work in women’s issues while Ms. Silverstein was at the Institute?

Dr. James D. Sterling: Along with two other women, Ms. Silverstein and Peggy Papp created The Women’s Project, which centered on eradicating sexism in clinical practice. Their work made great movements toward leveling the playing field in clinical psychology.

After obtaining his doctorate from the University of Chicago, Dr. James D. Sterling began his career in private practice. Currently, Dr. James D. Sterling sees clients at the New York Center for Psychotherapy where he serves and Director.

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