James L. Framo, 79; Pioneer in Family and Marital Therapy

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James L. Framo, 79, a pioneering practitioner of family and marital therapy who was a founding member of the American Family Therapy Assn., died Aug. 25 of a heart attack at his home in San Diego.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Framo earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Pennsylvania State University. He went on to earn his PhD at the University of Texas. He then worked as a research scientist at a psychiatric hospital in Philadelphia.

In the 1950s, he was among a handful of mental health professionals who, independently, challenged the conventional wisdom that bringing feuding parents and children or husbands and wives into the same treatment room was dangerous.


“Most of the time, we find that Johnnie’s problem is his parents’ disturbed marriage,” Framo told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1972. “In my experience, there had never been a disturbed child who did not come from a disturbed marriage.”

He moved to the San Diego area in 1983, joining the faculty of U.S. International University, now Alliant International University. He retired and received emeritus status in 1999.