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Nathan Ackerman (1908–1971), one of the originators of family therapy, was born in Bessarabia in Eastern Europe and immigrated with his family to New York City in 1912. Ackerman was the first son in his family to survive infancy. Prior to his birth, three of his siblings died, each within a year of the other. From the beginning of his life, Ackerman was expected to fulfill the dreams of his merchant-class parents, who prioritized education and cultural pursuits and wanted their son to pursue a scholarly career. Ackerman possessed both the intellectual intensity and the facility required to invent and implement family therapy, one of the most widely used modalities of counseling and psychotherapy.

Perhaps it was Ackerman’s family story of shifting fortune and tragedy that ...

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