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Biography

Joseph Abrahams, M.D.

Joseph Isaac Abrahams was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1916, the second of four children to Lithuanian immigrants. In 1920, the family moved to New England where Abrahams grew up on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He did well in public schools, reading books by the dozen: James Fennimore Cooper, Sinclair Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky. An organizer of the City History Club and Captain of the De Witt Clinton Library Squad, he was passionate about literature, history, and science.

Abrahams attended City College of New York, and later Emory University, where he received his M.D. in 1939. There, his interest was in treating the disadvantaged and alienated. On completion of an internship at New York City Hospital, he volunteered to fight Hitler, was battalion surgeon for two and a half years, then psychiatrist in charge of psychotherapy at an Army treatment prison camp at Fort Knox.

At Fort Knox, Abrahams found his footing, running a large, ultimately sophisticated program. That success led him to pursue group treatment, then psychoanalysis, and he spent 25 years in Washington, D.C. pioneering an "extended practice of psychoanalysis." Abrahams conducted ground-breaking work in group therapy at Howard Hall, the maximum security wing at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. He also ran a flourishing private practice, treating a wide range of disorders.

Abrahams next moved to California where he spent 20 years in private practice in La Jolla. He applied his group experiences to politics, organizing and inspiring groups at various levels of the political process. He has spent the last 15 years on the Central Coast of California, where he worked as lead psychiatrist with sexual offenders at Atascadero State Hospital. He also ran a private practice in San Luis Obispo.

Abrahams retired from professional life to write, and has now completed five books and a number of essays. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of both the San Diego and Washington Psychoanalytic Societies. He lives in San Luis Obispo with his wife of many years, Elisabeth Galloway Abrahams.