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Dr. Jean Baker Miller





Year of Birth / Death

1927 - 2006


Medical School

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons


Geography

LOCATION
Massachusetts


Career Path

Psychiatry
Dr. Jean Baker Miller



Inspiration

I wanted to find work that would help people, that would be interesting, and that also would enable me to make a living. At the time of graduating college in 1948, my friends could find only clerical jobs. There were not many fields open to women, at least that I was aware of.



Biography

Jean Baker Miller, M.D., published Towards a New Psychology of Women in 1976, a groundbreaking work in the understanding of human relationships. In 1995 Wellesley College opened the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, with Dr. Miller as head of the institute, where she put her approach into practice as a teacher, researcher, and clinician.

Born in 1927 and raised in the Bronx in New York City, Jean Baker was inspired at an early age by twin nurses who helped her during her twice-weekly clinic visits for polio. In high school, the nurses convinced her mother to allow her to attend Hunter College High School, a New York City school for gifted young girls. From Hunter, she received a scholarship to nearby Sarah Lawrence College. She went on to receive additional scholarships to finance her medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Receiving her doctor of medicine degree from Columbia in 1952, Dr. Miller remained in New York for postgraduate work at Montefiore Hospital, and psychiatric residencies at the Bellevue Medical Center, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the Upstate Medical Center. She completed her psychoanalytic training at New York Medical College and served as a research fellow at Albert Einstein. She conducted a private practice in New York until 1973, when she and her husband and their two sons moved to Boston, and Dr. Miller began teaching at Boston University.

In 1976 Dr. Miller first published Toward a New Psychology of Women, widely viewed as a breakthrough. The "relational model" she described in the book offered a paradigm shift in our understanding of human development and of society as a whole. Dr. Miller's model proposed that growth-fostering relationships are a central human necessity and that disconnections are the source of psychological problems. Her book has been translated into eleven languages and was reissued in 1987. Since its publication, Dr. Miller has incorporated her relational approach into all aspects of her career: teaching, psychoanalysis, research, and administration. "Today I am fortunate to be able to write and publish books and papers that present a new view of women's psychological development," Dr. Miller explained, "This approach makes it possible to practice more effectively. I am fortunate, too, in being able to work at a center at which we can do research and training on the prevention of psychological problems based on this approach."

In 1981 Dr. Miller was asked to be the first director of the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies at Wellesley College. Focusing the center's energies and resources on the prevention of psychological problems and the search for a comprehensive understanding of human development, Dr. Miller has incorporated her relational model into all Stone Center operations.

Following her tenure as director of the Stone Center, in 1986 Dr. Miller became the Center's director of education. Using the traditional model she had first described in her book, Dr. Miller launched a group discussion program to foster collaboration. "We shared ideas and developed them together through discussion, and by the end of the session we wouldn't know whose idea it was. It was the most enjoyable time of my professional life." The results were published as "Working Papers." The Working Papers Series enabled researchers to share ideas while they were still developing and the feedback needed to improve on and update the research. Many of these ideas and Working Papers were brought together and published in the 1991 book, Women's Growth in Connection.

In 1995 Wellesley opened the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute which she headed. Dr. Miller was also a clinical professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, and a lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry of Harvard Medical School. A member of numerous professional societies, Dr. Miller had honorary degrees from Brandeis University and Regis College and received the Distinguished Career Award from the Association for Women in Psychology.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

My biggest obstacle was the attitude of many classmates and many faculties at medical school. They acted as if they believed women should not be there, and some were even more crudely sexist in their jokes and comments. They created a generally chilling atmosphere. However, a few classmates, and later, interns and residents, were not this way.

How do I make a difference?

Today, I am fortunate to be able to write and publish books and papers that present a new view of women's psychological development. This view also changes the way we can understand men and boys. This approach makes it possible to practice more effectively. I am fortunate, too, in being able to work at a center at which we can do research and training on the prevention of psychological problems based on this approach.

Who was my mentor?

My mentor at college was a wonderful social philosopher, Helen Merrill Lynd, the co-author of the famous Middletown studies of the 1930s. Without her encouragement, I would not have had the confidence to pursue premedical studies. Later, in psychiatry, my mentor was Walter Bonime, M.D., a brilliant man who inspired me intellectually and also supported me personally.

How has my career evolved over time?

After residency, I practiced and taught psychiatry part-time. A major change occurred after my first book, Toward a New Psychology of Women in 1976. I was invited to do much more writing and speaking. In 1981, I was invited to become director of the Stone Center at Wellesley College, a center for research and training on the prevention of psychological problems. My M.D. degree has taken me into a large amount of writing for the general public and also many presentations to groups beyond medicine.


National Library of Medicine