It has been said that a good psychotherapist is empathic, wise, supportive, collaborative, and knowledgeable. Abraham W. Wolf, Ph.D., was all of that as a therapist because that’s who he was as a person. Abe cared deeply, and it showed. He cared about his patients. He cared about his family. He cared about his friends and colleagues. He cared about advancing the field. And he put his caring into action in what he did for others and the profession.
Abe, an exceptional clinician, respected researcher, and gifted leader of APA’s Psychotherapy Division, died at the age of 68 on February 28, 2019 after a courageous battle with cancer. We join thousands of his colleagues and clients in mourning his passing and in celebrating his life.
Although it seems almost ineffable to describe all the ways that Abe impacted our lives, his patients and colleagues have movingly expressed how they felt about him. Upon learning of his death, a former patient of his said: “He was a Mensch and a damn good therapist. My life has been richer for having been his patient.” Some of his colleagues remember him as “a respected scholar and therapist,” “a major force for good in many people’s lives,” “a world-class scholar that was surpassed only by his generosity of spirit,” and as a person who “exuded kindness and positivity.”
Abe was a vibrant presence and enduring contributor to the APA Division of Psychotherapy (now the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy). He chaired the organization’s Student Development Committee, served on the Publication Board, worked as the internet editor, and was elected to both the Board of Directors and as Treasurer. In 2006, he was President of the Society. Abe served with distinction in one capacity or another for more than 20 years. While he also served on other local and national bodies, the Society remained his passion and priority.
Quite apart from his positions, Abe proved a treasured colleague who naturally encouraged and mentored fellow therapists. He was conscientious and demanding about the quality of service while simultaneously making others feel good about the results and themselves. Abe sagely reminded us on numerous occasions, when we felt frustrated by the slow progress of professional organizations, that “We can only expect so much work from volunteers at Temple or Church. Let’s celebrate what they do give us for free.” Through his service, Abe propelled the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy into the future while collaborating with others to get us there.
Abe’s 40-year affiliation with Case Western Reserve enabled him to contribute to the field as an educator, clinician, and administrator. His multiple workshops on item response theory in psychotherapy outcome, his co-edited book on Transforming negative reactions to clients: From frustration to compassion, his guest editing one of the earliest journal issues on technology in psychotherapy, and his influential collaborative research on the effects of lead and iron on child development begin to convey the range and impact of his scholarship. He retired as Professor Emeritus of Psychology in Psychiatry at Case Western.
Abe repeatedly stepped up to serve while others hesitated. The “Wolf Man,” as he was affectionately known in APA circles, established and directed the first APA Psychotherapy On-line Academy. He served as program chair for the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI). The theme of the 2019 SEPI conference, which will focus on “Building Alliances,” will pay a tribute to Abe for having done so in so many aspects of his life.
Abe is survived by his wife of 27 years, Idelle K. Wolf; son, Adam P. Wolf; siblings, Ruth Wolf (Vincenzo Votto) of Philadelphia and Bruce Wolf of Philadelphia; and nephew, Louis Wolf.
Those who would like to honor Abe’s memory may contribute to the Abraham W. Wolf, PhD, Endowed Fund for Graduate Fellowship in Clinical Psychology, c/o Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, or the Mandel Jewish Day School, Head Masters School Discretionary Endowment Fund, 26500 Shaker Blvd., Beachwood, OH 44122.
Marvin R. Goldfried, PhD
John C. Norcross, PhD
Cite This Article
Goldfried, M., & Norcross J. (2019). Remembering Abe Wolf. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 54(1), 73.