Professor Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D., ABPP, “Arnie” to those who knew him well, was the youngest, by many years, of four children born to a middle class, South African family. As a reaction to being mercilessly bullied by his second eldest sister’s husband, Arnie began competitive bodybuilding, boxing and a life-long interest in nutrition and health. As his muscles and boxing skills grew so did his intellectual curiosity and thus his academic pursuits began at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa where he earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1960.
Despite turning his attention to academic and scholarly matters, his feisty, fighter’s spirit never faltered and Arnie soon began to “duke it out” with the status quo and the prevailing norms of Freudian psychoanalytic and other psychodynamic theories and therapies. Consequently, Dr. Arnold Lazarus began working on what he termed “behavior therapy” and in fact coined the term, along with “behavior therapist,” in the professional literature in 1958.
Lazarus quickly found that focusing on behavioral techniques alone was too limiting which lead him incorporate cognitive factors into his method. Indeed, in 1971 he published his seminal book Behavior Therapy and Beyond which remains a groundbreaking text of what would later become known as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Lazarus went on to further differentiate and expand his clinical approach leading to “broad-spectrum” behavior therapy and ultimately to Multimodal Therapy (MMT) which is arguably one of the most elegant and comprehensive approaches to psychological therapy ever conceived of.
Along the way, Lazarus immigrated to the United States, with his wife and two children, and in 1966 launched one of the country’s first behavioral healthcare practices. In addition to maintaining an active clinical practice from 1959 through 2007, Lazarus taught at Stanford, Temple University medical school, Yale (where he also was the director of clinical training), and ultimately joined the faculty as a distinguished professor at Rutgers University in 1972 where he taught at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology until 1999.
With 18 books, more than 350 scientific and professional publications, and many prestigious awards to his credit, coupled with his unequaled eloquence, humor, charm, and innovative genius, Lazarus was a highly sought after speaker who gave innumerable presentations nationally and abroad. What’s more, his fighter’s passion never left him and among his final efforts was a challenge of the current rigid, therapeutic boundaries that he believed hampers therapists’ clinical effectiveness.
Most of all, through his practice, teaching, supervising, mentoring, writings, and presentations, Arnie directly and indirectly helped improve the lives of an unknowable but enormous number of people.
In loving memory of my father, Dr. A. A. Lazarus (January 27, 1932 to October 01, 2013). The world is a bit dimmer because of his death but a lot brighter because of his life.
Remember: Think well, act well, feel well, be well.
Copyright by Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.