Ivan Boszmormenyi-Nagy

Ivan Boszmormenyi-Nagy's emphasis on loyalty, trust, and relational ethics -- both within the family and between the family and society -- made major contributions to the field of family therapy since its inception in the 1950's (Nichols & Schwartz, Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. 4th ed. Allyn & Bacon 1998). A student of Virginia Satir and an accomplished scholar and clinician, Nagy was trained as a psychoanalyst and his work has encouraged many family therapists to incorporate psychoanalytic ideas with family therapy.

Nagy is perhaps best known for developing the contextual approach to family therapy, which emphasizes the ethical dimension of family development. Based on the psychodynamic model, contextual therapy accentuates the need for ethical principles to be an integral part of the therapeutic process. Nagy believes that trust, loyalty, and mutual support are the key elements that underlie family relationships and hold families together, and that symptoms develop when a lack of caring and liability result in a breakdown of trust in relationships (Nichols & Schwartz, Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. 4th ed. Allyn & Bacon 1998). The therapists' role is to help the family work through avoided emotional conflicts and to develop a sense of fairness among family members.

In 1957, Nagy established the Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute (EPPI) and served as codirector and cotherapist along with social worker Geraldine Spark. Nagy was also an active researcher of schizophrenia and family therapy and coauthored Invisible loyalties: Reciprocity in intergenerational family therapy (Boszormenyi-Nagy & Spark, 1973). Since the closing of EPPI, Nagy has continued to develop his contextual approach to family therapy and remains associated with Hahnemann University in Pennsylvania.

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