In Memoriam - Florence Lieberman
Dr. Florence Lieberman, a pioneer of clinical social work in America and one of its leaders for half a century died Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at age 93. She had battled cancer for 25 years, but was still writing professional articles, editing a new book, and counseling clients up to the day of her death.
She was Professor Emerita at the Hunter College School of Social Work where she had taught for 20 years. She was the author, editor and collaborator of many professional books such as Social Work With Children, Clinical Social Workers as Psychotherapists, Before Addiction: How to Help Youth, Strategies in Innovative Human Services Programs, and more recently, Aging in Good Health: A Quality Lifestyle for the Later Years.
After the National Academies of Practice was founded in 1981 to promote dialogue among the various health professions and honor distinguished practitioners, Dr. Lieberman was elected the first President of its Social Work Academy. She also served as President of the International Committee on the Advancement of Private Practice (ICAPP). She was a passionate advocate for higher standards for social workers and was known for her blunt writing and speaking style, exemplified by the titles she gave some of her papers such as The Repulsive Client, The Pathological Therapist, and The Witches: Mothers in Psychotherapy. She used agency, academic and conference venues to help highlight and bring more focus to varied practice and work related issues, such as child abuse in families, adolescent sexuality, drug abuse, and poverty.
Raised in New York City, Florence Lieberman graduated from Hunter College and the Smith College School for Social Work before obtaining her doctorate from the Columbia University School of Social Work. After collaborating on a paper early in her career with the noted German psychoanalyst Peter Blos, she began a prolific pattern of writing and lecturing and entered academia herself, becoming a full professor at Hunter’s Graduate School of Social Work in just five years. Dr. Lieberman received the Day-Garrett Award from the Smith College School of Social Work in 1986. She was elected to the Hunter Hall of Fame in 1994.
She was part of the core group that developed the Society for Clinical Social Work. Not only was she Editor of the Clinical Social Work Journal, but late established and edited a second journal, Childhood and Adolescent Social Work.
In addition to her creative teaching and writing, Dr. Lieberman maintained a private practice for more than half a century. In her 1979 book called Social Work With Children, which became a popular textbook in social work schools, Dr. Lieberman noted that while therapy should never be prolonged, the therapist’s door should never be entirely shut. The message was “if you need me I am here.”
Though legally blind for the last two years of her life, Dr. Lieberman began collaborating on yet another book.
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