Mitchell Ginsberg, Ph.D.
Hellmuth Kaiser


Hellmuth Kaiser

Hellmuth Kaiser (1893-1961) grew up in Heidelberg, where friends of his parents included Max Weber and Georg Jellinek. As a young adult he studied mathematics and philosophy, receiving a doctorate in 1922 from the University of Munich. Life events led him to undergo psychoanalysis, under the Swiss analyst Gustav Bally, and then to receive training at the same BPI (Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute) with supervisors Karen Horney, Sándor Radó, Wilhelm Reich, and Hanns Sachs. After becoming a psychoanalyst, he continued his analytic work at Berlin’s Sanatorium Schloss Tegel, directed by Ernst Simmel, cofounder of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. With the taking of power by Hitler and the beginning of the Third Reich, Kaiser fled Germany in 1933, living as a refugee for well over a decade. In the late 1940s, he was invited to join the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, modeled after the Sanatorium Schloss Tegel itself.

Finding his theorizing no longer operating within traditional psychoanalysis, he left the Clinic and developed his own approach to psychotherapy, first in West Hartford and then in Los Angeles.

During his years in Connecticut, he became the therapist of Louis B. Fierman, to whom Kaiser's papers were sent several years later by his widow, with Kaiser's posthumous desire that Lou edit and have them published. These finally appeared in print in 1965 as Effective Psychotherapy: The Contribution of Hellmuth Kaiser, which received a variety of inspired reviews.

Kaiser in his work had taken on the thorough re-visiting of the process of psychotherapy and a years-long analysis and questioning of what passed as therapy, with a focus on the actual psychotherapeutic interactions between therapist and patient (as he referred to the person in therapy). The results of these reflections make for fascinating reading.

Luckily for the reader, this book has been back in print since 2012 (its second edition). Its third edition (2014), with a corrected and revised printing (2016). Included in this is an essay of mine reviewing Kaiser’s life and rethinking of the psychotherapeutic process in its entirety, which is included in the newest edition of Effective Psychotherapy.


© Mitchell D. Ginsberg, Ph.D.