Sullivan, Harry Stack

Sullivan, Harry Stack,

1892–1949, American psychiatrist, b. Norwich, N.Y., M.D. Chicago College of Medicine and Surgery, 1917. He was, along with his teacher William Alanson White, responsible for the extension of Freudian psychoanalysispsychoanalysis,
name given by Sigmund Freud to a system of interpretation and therapeutic treatment of psychological disorders. Psychoanalysis began after Freud studied (1885–86) with the French neurologist J. M.
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 to the treatment of patients with severe mental disorders, particularly schizophrenia. In his work on the subject of schizophrenics, Sullivan argued that such individuals were not incurable, and that cultural forces were largely responsible for their condition. In his dual role as head of the William Alanson White Foundation (1934–43) and of the Washington School of Psychiatry (1936–47), he had the collaboration of like-minded psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists in bringing his views to public and professional attention. His writings include Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry (1947, repr. 1966); Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry (ed. by H. S. Perry and M. L. Gawel, 1953, repr. 1968); Schizophrenia as a Human Process (1962, repr. 1974).


See biography by H. Perry (1982, repr. 1987); study by P. Mullahy (1970).

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Sullivan, Harry Stack

(1892–1949) psychiatrist; born in Norwich, N.Y. In 1922, he began working at Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C., a major center for psychiatry. While there, he became aware of the therapeutic effects of psychiatric interviews. He moved to Baltimore and worked and taught at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital (1923–31), coming under the influence of Adolph Meyer at Johns Hopkins. In 1932 he moved to New York City to set up his clinical practice but he continued to teach at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (1933–43), Yale, and at the Georgetown School of Medicine. Although influenced by Freudian psychoanalysis, he believed that "personality" only has meaning in the context of cultural patterns and interpersonal relations, and that psychiatry is the study of those relations. He saw mental illnesses as problem-solving efforts that could lead to greater emotional integration. Sullivan demonstrated, for instance, that even severe schizophrenics display symbol activity that is human and therefore understandable. He was the first editor of Psychiatry (1938–49), and wrote Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry (1947). After World War II, he applied his theories to understanding international relations, but the "Sullivanians" never gained the status that he had hoped for.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.