The Family and the Clinic
Lawrence J. Friedman
The story of the Menninger Clinic is the story of the Menninger family. The two cannot be separated, according to historian Lawrence Friedman, for one cannot be understood without the other.
Friedman should know. He is the only scholar granted full, unrestricted access to the Menninger archives and the personal papers of founder Karl and Will Menninger. In this study of the Menningers and their clinic, Friedman lifts the public relations veil to reveal the story behind the public success: the reciprocal influence of the family upon the clinic and the clinic upon the family.
“Given the contentious history of the Menningers, Friedman’s account is remarkable for its restrained but candid editorial tone, meticulous documentation, and avoidance of sensationalism. . . . Despite the author’s even-handed treatment of his subject, Menninger was not well received by family members, who blamed the book’s publication for contributing to Karl Menninger's death a few months later.”
“Dr. Friedman must also have something of the lawyer, or at least the politician, in him. His powers of persuasion coaxed this remarkably closed institution into baring its secrets.”
—Raleigh News and ObserverSee all reviews...
“A comprehensive biography of American psychiatry’s first family. Readers receive a psychological analysis of the family’s intricatesome might say compulsive—ties to its work. . . . A thorough, accomplished addition to the history of American mental health treatment.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Throughout the book are nuggets that in part reveal the prevailing attitudes of male doctors in the early part of the century but also raise questions about the sensitivities and effectiveness of the Menningers themselves leading a clinic and dealing with other people.”
—New York Times
“In the critical period that immediately followed the Second World War, the Menninger dynasty clearly had a strong and visible hand in the design of the nation’s mental health care strategies. . . . Its directors, Karl and Will Menninger, became arguably America’s most influential psychiatrists through a combination of public writings, governmental leverage, and prominence within professional organizations. Based on extensive interviews, access to heretofore (and presumably hereafter) confidential materials, Friedman has fashioned a readable—and at times lurid—saga of psychiatry’s own ‘first family.’ Wife-swapping, revenge, blackmail using information obtained in analytical sessions, it's all here. . . . The true significance of Friedman’s work lies . . . [in] his account of . . . the culture clash between the values of Jewish, cosmopolitan scholars and the small-town provincialism of the Menninger Clinic brought to the surface a tension that continues to reside within much of American psychiatry. . . . It is through accounts such as this that the story of American medicine will eventually merge within mainstream social and cultural history.”
—Journal of American History
“A finely wrought and delicately balanced study that adds measurably to our knowledge of an intriguing family and to our appreciation of the inner workings of one of the most influential mental health institutions of this century. Along the way Friedman has managed to shed some much needed light on a wide variety of topics, including the distinctive personalities and intellectual interests of some of the leading figures in twentieth-century psychiatry and psychology; the bureaucratic imperatives of running a major psychiatric practice, hospital, and educational program; the Byzantine politics of the American psychiatric and psychoanalytic establishments; the role gender plays in these politics; and the problems inherent in funding such endeavors in an increasingly competitive era.”
—Reviews in American History
“Both a significant contribution to the history of American psychiatry and an engaging story of a remarkable, and eccentric, family.”
“Friedman has succeeded in what he obviously set out to do—produce a definitive book of record about a dedicated family, not without flaws, and how they created and operated an immensely influential mental health conglomerate on the edge of the Kansas prairie.”
—Kansas City Star
“Fascinating for students of the history of psychiatric treatment in the U.S.”
—KirkusSee fewer reviews...
Friedman has taken extraordinary time and care in researching this study. The resulting book is neither expos nor hagiography. Nor is it a narrow institutional history. It is, instead, a finely wrought historical study based upon a decade of research in more than a dozen archives, including the vast Menninger archive.
Menninger is the first study of a major American psychiatric center based on full, unrestricted access to archival materials. It also incorporates information gleaned from extensive interviews with members of the Menninger family as well as interviews with more than one hundred people important in the clinic's history. Not only does Friedman examine the dynamics of the Menninger family close up, but he also steps back for a larger view of the Menningers' role in the history of psychiatry.