The 2015 Rhoda G. Sarnat Lecture

Is Psychiatry Misdiagnosing Normal Sadness as Depressive Disorder?: The DSM-5 Debate Over the Bereavement Exclusion and What the Latest Research Reveals.

Jerome C. Wakefield, MSW, DSW, Ph.D.
University Professor, Professor of Social Work, Silver School of Social Work, and Professor of the Conceptual Foundations of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, at New York University

October 22, 2015
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Jerome C. Wakefield's clinical training and experience has been within the mental health field and was integrative, including psychodynamic, cognitive, behavioral, and family training, with work in agencies as well as private practice. He is currently a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey.

This lecture focused on the most controversial change to DSM-5: The elimination of the bereavement exclusion to major depression, allowing diagnosis of depressive disorder even in the very recently bereaved with mild symptoms, which was not allowed in previous DSMs. The debate around this change was placed in the historical context of how depression has been distinguished from normal sadness through the centuries. Professor Wakefield also discussed recent research about how to distinguish genuine depressive disorders from intense normal emotional reactions to loss and stress, and evaluated whether DSM-5 has gone beyond the boundary of disorder to pathologize normal sadness—and what dilemmas this poses for the clinician.


The 2014 Rhoda G. Sarnat Lecture & Brunch

William Borden
Senior Lecturer, SSA

“Neuroscience, Therapeutic Action, and Clinical Pragmatism: Experiments in Adapting to Need”

Friday, October 24, 2014

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In this talk Borden reviewed recent developments in the science of mind, showing how emerging models of development validate differing conceptions of therapeutic action across the foundational schools of thought in contemporary psychotherapy and strengthen our understanding of facilitating processes in integrative practice. Read the entire lecture description.


The 2013 Rhoda Sarnat Lecture was presented by:

Deborah Gorman-Smith
Professor, The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration

"Strengthening Families and Communities to Prevent Youth Violence"

Friday, October 18, 2013
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Youth violence is a public health crisis in the United States. Based on the most recent statistics, approximately 20 percent of high school students report being bullied at school, and over 30 percent report being in a physical fight. Homicide is the second leading cause of death of young people, with an average of 13 youth between the ages of 15-24 murdered every day.

Although there is no simple or single answer to the problem, the goal is to stop youth violence before it starts. Through rigorous investigation researchers in the field of violence prevention have made important progress in understanding the epidemiology of youth violence – rates as well as developmental and contextual patterns, risk and protective factors, and prevention strategies.

Drawing upon her work as Principal Investigator and director of the Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention, one of six national Academic Centers of Excellence funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gorman-Smith described a growing list of preventive interventions and critique their effectiveness in reducing youth violence.

At the conclusion of this presentation, participants were able to:

  1. Describe the risk and protective factors for youth becoming involved in violence;
  2. Assess evidence-based strategies to prevent youth violence, particularly family focused preventive interventions;
  3. Analyze guidelines regarding evidence-based decision-making for communities to use to build comprehensive strategies to prevention youth violence based on the best available evidence.

The Rhoda Sarnat Lecture is funded in part by the Rhoda G. Sarnat Lecture fund, founded at the University of Chicago. The lecture is delivered annually at the School of Social Service Administration by a prominent researcher or practitioner on a topic especially pertinent to clinical social work.

Jan and Jerry Wolf

Jerry Wolf, AM '74, MBA '75 and Jan Harris Wolf, AM '74

During their first quarter at SSA, Jerry Wolf and Jan Harris, took a class on the history of social welfare, an encounter that led to their marriage and a beginning for their time at SSA that has guided them in their careers.