Dr Dr. Salvador Minuchin leaves a Legacy Unsurpassed in the Family Therapy Field

We are sad to share this news, Dr. Salvador Minuchin has died.  Sal made it to and past his 96th birthday which was a wish he expressed.  His last appearance as a family therapist leader occurred in March of this year at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium.  He was interviewed by Dr. Sue Johnson; it was described as a very moving presentation.

“Dr. Salvador Minuchin had a huge impact on my life and career first through my mentors Suzanne Pope and Jan Raynak in Boulder, Colorado in my post-graduate training in the very early 1990’s.
They shared with me his love of families, of social as the best treatment for ailments of the heart and confusions of the mind. They inspired with videos of his clinical work, and stories of his willingness to break current therapy rules to fight for families.

Later got to chat with him very briefly at a big conference in 1995. He was vibrant and challenging his own ideas, apologizing for not seeing how his early family therapy work dismissed sometimes the role of mothers in families. How excited I was when he reappeared on the seen with a new book about working with families that integrated new ideas with his original ideas on structural family therapy.

Then, he called me one day out of the blue, in late 2005. “Is this Jim Thomas?” he asked in his thick Argentinian accent.

“Yes,” I said

“This is Dr. Salvador Minuchin, is this the Jim Thomas who shall bring me to Denver for a workshop next May?”

“Yes it is,” I answered, floating on air, and a bit anxious needless to say. Well, went to Denver Family Institute which I was directing at the and began the process with Julie Gooden and the DFI team of coordinating the conference. He spoke for 2 days without notes at 83 years old. Sal showed work across 4 decades showing how it evolved. And, I got to have lunch with him and my mentor Suzanne, as well as dinner with him and two colleagues, Darrin and Michael.

That led to more workshops for D.F.I., and the invitation to Dr Susan Johnson to come out in 2009. Sue was influenced by Sal’s work and integrated some key aspects of it in to her model, Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy or E.F.T.

Well, getting to know Sue in person took my life and career to new levels including training now around the world. And, getting to know her, being part of the amazing Colorado and International E.F.T. Community and seeing my own relationships deepen and strengthen as a result.

So to you Dr. Minuchin, in your passing, I say what I said as part of my introduction to you in 2009 to 400 people at the workshop (I never found out why he called me of all people by the way).

“Dr. Minuchin, Sal, you have impacted my life in so many ways. and the lives of many people here in this room, and through your affirming, positive, and hopeful ideas about families, about connection and change, you taught me from a distance to privilege possibility over pathology. You inspired me to show up fully in the family therapy room. You modeled being willing to meet people where they are, but to not leave them there. I can honestly tell you that my deep affection and appreciation of you has turned in to love and profound respect over the years.”

I miss you…and am grateful for my short times of being with you in conversation about life, about therapy, crab cakes and always stretching. May we each embody just a bit of this man’s energy, hopefulness and willingness to break the rules.”  – Jim Thomas

Dr. Minuchin was a primary developer of Structural Family Therapy that arose from work with inner city youth and their families in the 1960’s.  Author of numerous textbooks, and co-author the seminal work, Families of the Slums, Dr. Minuchin was also a researcher, gifted clinician and a thought leader who challenged the individualistic, medical model and pathology tendencies of the therapy field in the 1970’s.  He received numerous awards and accolades across his career, and impacted millions of people directly or indirectly through trainings, mentoring, supervision, research, writing and public speaking.