E. James Lieberman

Dr. E. James Lieberman

Faculty: Emeriti

Professor Emeritus of Clinical Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

E. James Lieberman was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1934. His father was a physician, and Lieberman recalls that, “in 1942, just after Pearl Harbor, he decided to join the Army Medical Corps though he was over-age: he wanted to help in the fight against Hitler.” Ironically, he was assigned to the Oakland Army Hospital, on the Pacific front.
After the war, the family returned to Milwaukee for a year--with a record-setting snowfall. Retired Major Ben Lieberman accepted an offer to join a clinic in Oakland, where Jim attended Oakland Technical High School, which he remembers fondly. “They had a good college prep program and an excellent music department. Having started cello in fourth grade (his mother, Ruth, was a good violinist) he played in orchestra and chamber music groups. He took up flute in order to play in the band. His love of music continues; he still plays quartets and trios, and partcipates in music outreach to assisted living communities. 
Lieberman attended UC Berkeley for his undergraduate degree, a nice three mile bike ride from home. Though Berkeley was “in turmoil with politics," including a controversial loyalty oath, it was still “a great place to go.” He was on the Cal wrestling team and played piccolo in the marching band. After finishing pre-med requirements he entered UCSF Medical School (M.D., 1958). Times were different: of 82 classmates, only 3 were women. 
In medical school, he recalls, “I insisted to my classmates, a dozen of whom wanted to be psychiatrists, that I would not. I thought  psychiatry was a waste of a medical education.” His mind was changed, however, by an elective program allowing students to have weekly interviews with an outpatient for most of a year, with supervision by a psychiatrist. That experience, plus a memorable lecture by Brock Chisholm, Canadian Psychiatrist and first director of the World Health Organization, convinced him that “there is no infinite divide between public health and psychiatry.”
After internship at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital, Staten Island, Lieberman spent three years as a psychiatry resident at Mass. Mental Health Center, followed by a year at the Harvard School of Public Health ( M.P.H., 1963), where he developed an interest in "family planning as preventive psychiatry.”
In 1963, Lieberman came to Bethesda to work on the Community Mental Health program at NIMH initiated by President Kennedy. His first publication was “Family Planning and Mental Health” in J. Marr. & Family. Later he co-authored Sex and Birth Control: A Guide for the Young, (and long after, in 1998, with his daughter, Like It Is: A Teen Sex Guide.). In 1970 he started private practice while working part-time at the American Public Health Association, editing Mental Health: The Public Health Challenge (1975). He served on several boards, including the the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS), The American Assn. of Marriage and Family Therapy, and Compassion and Choices. 
Lieberman came to George Washington University School of Medicine in 1976 where he became Clinical Professor in 1988; he supervised psychiatry residents and taught some introductory psychiatry classes for medical students. He particularly enjoyed supervising cases in couples and family therapy, sometimes with live interviews.
After reading works on therapy by Otto Rank, Lieberman wrote a biography of the Viennese-American psychologist, a contemporary of Freud:  Acts of Will: The Life and Work of Otto Rank (1985, translations into French and German). He edited English versions of three Rank works plus the correspondence with Sigmund Freud. 
Lieberman recently taught “Exploring Language and Linguistics” at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), American University. He continues an interest in Esperanto, first encountered in a Paris youth hostel at age 19. A former president of Esperanto-USA, he has donated much of his Esperanto book and journal collection to the Library of Congress. His latest project was The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto Rank: Inside Psychoanalysis (2012; German and French versions to come) and he continues to review psychology books for Library Journal.  


A.B., University of California, Berkeley, 1955
M.D., University of  California, San Francisco, 1958
M.P.H., Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, 1963

Audio Clip from Interview