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Joseph Palombo, MA

Deceased June 10, 2023 | Posted June 28, 2023

Portrait of Joseph Palombo

I wanted to let our members know that Joseph Palombo, MA, died Saturday, June 10 while in hospice care. Vibrant as he approached his 95th birthday this July. Joe was still writing and published as recently as January 2023 in the Psychoanalytic Social Work Journal. He was a major contributor to Self Psychology as an author, educator, and clinician. His published work includes 63 papers and 4 books, including a seminal paper in 1976 in which he applied the teachings of Kohut to clinical social work practice. Joe was most known for his groundbreaking work on the disorders of the self that often accompany neuropsychological deficits in children, adolescents, and adults. Joe wrote two books and countless papers on this topic.

He was Founding Dean of the Institute for Clinical Social Work in Chicago and the Distinguished Director Emeritus of the Joseph Palombo Center for Neuroscience and Psychoanalytic Social Work, also a part of ICSW. His work and teaching leaves behind a legacy that will be valued throughout the years by students and colleagues all over the world. Joe Palombo will be missed by many and will live in the hearts of many more. Memorial arrangements will be announced up ahead.

Barbara Berger, PhD, LCSW — Chicago, IL.

This is devastating news. Jeff was one of the most engaged, interesting, talented, warm, inviting, curious scholars I've ever been lucky enough to know and he made a profound impact on our field. The world is diminished without his charm, talent, enthusiasm, and kindness. I will miss him and hope that we can honor him at AAPSCW, in November.

Joan Berzoff, Northampton, MA.

I hope everyone kicks in their memories of Joe. I attended Loyola University of Chicago (1987 Graduate), where he taught (early 80's). He was one of my favorite professors and a stronghold in the Department of Social Work. He taught many of the fundamental social work courses. It was an exciting time to be in graduate school in Chicago, as Kohut had arrived on scene (late 70's) at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and word of his new ideas was spreading like wildfire. Joe embraced Kohut's ideas and Kohut became one of his mentors. The city of Chicago and all institutions that Joe was a founder of, will remember his enthusiasm and passion for all that he brought to the field of social work.

Beth Siegel, PsyD, LCSW — Los Angeles, CA.

I echo Dr. Seigel's experience. I was at SSA at the University of Chicago in the late 70's. Joe Palombo was an icon for our casework cohort. He taught the Child Treatment and other practice classes. Not only was his expertise as a clinician respected but his stature as a clinical social worker in the mental health community provided us with a role model for advanced training. I had not known that social workers could pursue analytic training, until I was exposed to him and the many other professors there who had studied in the child analysis program at the Institute. My exposure to his work launched my appreciation of self psychology and its application to my work with children and adults. I owe him. Respectfully,

Connie Catrone, DSW, LCSW — Woodbridge, CT.

I am deeply saddened by the news of Joe Palombo's death, and I would like to share the following few thoughts: Here in Washington, DC, we remember Joe as the "Patron Saint" of our Clinical Social Work Institute's doctoral program, an honorary title lovingly bestowed upon him for all his help in getting us started with establishing our Institute. In that process, he guided us with phenomenal generosity in investing time and energy and sharing his knowledge and expertise in every aspect of our multiyear project. He mentored us in the true spirit of the word! In my role as the Founding Dean of the program, I was fortunate to have the privilege of working closely with Joe and getting to know him as a person. I found him to be a kind, gentle and gracious person with a dry sense of humor and the capacity for playfulness. Furthermore, he was a principled and disciplined scholar, a dedicated and compassionate clinician, with a deep love for learning and teaching rooted in his deep appreciation for the complexities of the human condition. For example, in these moments of grief for all of us, here is what he said about "Mourning" in one of his recent articles in Psychoanalytic Social Work journal (2022):

“At a personal level, mourning brings us face to face with our helplessness and humanity. Perhaps, the evolutionary function of mourning is not so much to enhance our physical survival. Rather it serves to affirm our psychological survival. Our determination to endure the pain and anguish is an affirmation of the human spirit's struggles with adversity” (96).

Joe was a special gift to our profession and to those of us who had the good fortune of knowing him. We are indebted to him for his enduring contributions. He will be sorely missed. In sadness and gratitude,

Golnar A. Simpson, PhD, LCSW, McLean, VA.

Joe was an inspiration to those who were committed to advancing the clinical social work professions. He was truly an example of loving to understand how to help others through teaching, writing, and treating. Thank you Joe!

Crayton Rowe, Jr., MSW, BCD-P — New York, NY

Deeply saddened to learn of Joe's passing. I first got to know Joe at the U of Chicago back in the late '70s, when as a new doctoral student, I took his wonderful course on child treatment. Some years later, when I was asked to begin a new clinical journal, I was delighted when Joe agreed to serve on our editorial board — which he did with distinction for more than 30 years! He possessed many talents — scholar, teacher, and master clinician, to name only the more obvious ones — and leaves behind a rich legacy. He will be greatly missed.

Jerry Brandell — Ann Arbor, MI

I had the honor of meeting Joe during the time I spent a couple of years ago at the Institute for Clinical Social Work. He was a generous human who met with me weekly for a few months to help me with some pieces of writing I was working on. During that time, as I spoke about my writing and some of the hurdles I had to overcome, he shared his experiences as a social worker breaking into psychoanalysis. I was humbled by his sharing, and appreciative of his passion for the field and the work that he continued to do for those continuing to come into it. May his memory be a blessing.

Aaron Skinner-Spain, LCSW-R — New York, NY

Joe Palombo contributed to the field in so many creative ways. I also remember his participation on a board where he took his responsibilities very seriously, and he was highly respected. He was a giant in the field. His achievements are his legacy. He will be missed. May his memory be a blessing.

Penny Rosen, MSW, LCSW, BCD-P — New York, NY

As I said to a friend and colleague Sunday evening when I first was told of Joe Palombo's death, "I am beyond sad." I cannot shake this feeling and finally yesterday realized what it was about. Joe, my teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend from my first days in graduate school at SSA at University of Chicago, 1973, and was consistently so much of my professional growth and life, and later my personal one as well. It never crossed my mind that Joe would not live forever. I was in complete denial of his age until I received the message of his death.

Others have already shared the never-ending list of his contributions to our field--social work, psychoanalysis, neuropsychoanalysis — but I believe it was the personal and warm connection that was a huge part of our relationship. Joe defined generativity in our field, and I always was aware that anything I might accomplish or contribute was due to his never-ending encouragement, support, and direction. He was my "essential other," as he was to so many. The truth is, that every. professional decision, whether it was obtaining a PhD before ICSW was created by him and my other mentor, Arnie Levin, applying to the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, consultations regarding patients, and teaching me neuropsychoanalysis along with my dear friend Mark Solms, and even running for president of APsaA, Joe always provided the correct wisdom and encouragement. One of the highlights of my professional career was making him an Honorary Member of the American Psychoanalytic Association in 2017, a small expression of my gratitude for his mentorship, and an award long overdue.

My personal feeling of loss pales in comparison to what Joe contributed to so many of us and our field. I can barely imagine moving forward without him. He will be sorely missed. With great sadness,

D. Smaller, PhD, LCSW — Douglas, MI.