Arthur Bodin

(1932 – 2021) PhD in Psychology from the State University of New York

(1932 – 2021) PhD in Psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He moved to Palo Alto in 1965 where he began working as a clinical psychologist at the Mental Research Institute (MRI). He run a therapy practice with special expertise in couples and family systems/therapy for 50 years until he retired in 2015.

Massimo Schinco: In 2012, as co-director of the Milan Center for Family Therapy, I visited the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto. I was welcomed by the Managing Director Maria Pia Allende and introduced to other colleagues; among them were Eileen Bobrow, director of clinical activities, and Arthur Bodin, member of the Board. Bodin had been working in Palo Alto since 1965 and I knew him through his publications. I was excited and happy to meet a protagonist in the history of the systemic model and we immediately started chatting. Arthur asked me how systemic psychotherapists were trained in Italy and I explained things to him in a detailed way, with reference to what it meant for the Schools to become institutions recognized by the Government which issued a legally valid qualification: four years of course, excessive hours, programs validated by the ministry, abundance of theoretical topics … Initially he looked at me as if some misfortune had happened to me: “but how do you do it? – He exclaimed. With all that the systemic model has done to free itself from the Academy, it is not possible…”. Then, as we continued the chat, his gaze changed. He looked at me with the kind of respect one reserves for a noble-minded dissident, a political refugee who has daringly escaped the tormentors of an authoritarian state.

We all went to lunch together and the conversation languished a bit; it was formal, of the type: “our model has favored this epistemological approach, and yours?” or “in training we pay a lot of attention to the theory of technique”. In short, it didn’t take off, it was boring. At a certain point Arthur jumped up: “let’s go! We can’t continue like this! Now I’ll tell you about a patient of mine who I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since last week. I will tell you my hypothesis only later, I want to hear what you in Milan would do with a case like this”. It was a story of domestic violence, a bit particular because the victim was the husband and the aggressor was the wife. In five minutes we all got so hot that we risked forgetting we were in the restaurant and that it was better to keep our voices a little low, considering the topic. We ended lunch very satisfied. As it is, the following year we invited Eileen Bobrow to Italy for a “three-voice” discussion that included Milan, Palo Alto and New York with the Ackerman Institute. And even more things happened after that. This is what can happen if you are truly curious and start a conversation like Arthur Bodin did on that occasion.

Marcelo Ceberio: On one occasion, Art told me – making a collection of anecdotes – that when he – having just graduated in medicine – came to the MRI for a conference and curiously asked a person who Bateson was… the person replied: “When you see a man coming out of the bathroom a little disheveled, with his fly open and a piece of baguette under his arm… surely that is Bateson!“. It seems that while listening to a lecture or attending a meeting, Bateson placed a piece of baguette under his right arm and tore off a piece to put it in his mouth, all with the same hand…


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