From Revolution to Evolution

From Revolution to Evolution

Salvador Minuchin Reflects On His Therapeutic Legacy

By Rich Simon

September/October 2009

Salvador Minuchin was born in 1921 in what was essentially a shtetl within a small, deeply antisemitic town in rural Argentina. Always keenly aware of his status as an outsider and the danger of challenging the social order, he became a political dissenter as a young medical student, and spent time in jail for protesting the policies of dictator Juan Per—n. After receiving his medical degree, he left Argentina and a brand-new pediatric practice to join the Israeli Army and fight in the 1948 war, feeling a responsibility to help establish the new Jewish homeland. Later, as a freshly minted psychiatrist, he codirected residential programs for disturbed children, many of them orphans of the Holocaust.

In the early 1950s, he came to America and, despite his rudimentary English and unfamiliarity with our culture, began a new life in the tradition of the quintessential American immigrant. With his strong sense of social justice, he wound up working with poor kids, many of whom were, in their own way, fighters against political oppression, as he himself had been. At the Wiltwyck School, with Braulio Montalvo and others in his group, he began to develop a pioneering way of working with families. Eventually famous as both an iconoclast and one of the world's great therapeutic practitioners, he not only transformed the lives of the families he saw, but created a new vision of what a therapist could be and do.

Throughout his career, his work has been grounded in the…

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