Friends, family and a who's who of colleagues celebrated Jacques Barber, PhD, who recently retired after 12 years as dean of the Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology.
In Spring 2023, Jacques Barber, PhD, announced he was stepping down from his role as dean of the Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology. On October 28, 2023, more than 170 colleagues, collaborators and former students from around the world gathered to honor Dr. Barber at his Festschrift.
German for “celebratory writing,” a Festchrift is typically a compilation of essays or articles written by colleagues, students and friends of a person, usually an academic, being honored on the occasion of their retirement or other significant event.
In this case, the Festschrift began as an event held at Adelphi’s Ruth S. Harley University Center, and the tributes were spoken at first, as 17 of Dr. Barber’s colleagues—all renowned PhDs and/or MDs—reflected on Dr. Barber’s impactful career. Through a series of presentations and roundtable-structured discussions, they shared personal stories and experiences of their impactful collaborations with Dr. Barber and highlighted the groundbreaking innovations that emerged from his work.
The event was then summarized in a festschrift book, gifted to Dr. Barber. The book included a selection of manuscripts with entries summarizing collaborations and experiences with him, chosen and written by the speakers of the event.
Tributes From National and International Colleagues
Ulrike Dinger-Ehrenthal, MD, PhD, and Sigal Zilcha-Mano, PhD, discussed Dr. Barber’s groundbreaking work on the casual relationship between the therapeutic alliance and psychotherapy outcome. This work laid the foundations for the past two decades of innovative research on the therapeutic alliance. J. Christopher Muran, PhD, who succeeded Dr. Barber as dean of Derner, followed this thread and discussed Dr. Barber’s research on therapeutic process, with a focus on key questions about the therapeutic alliance. Louis Castonguay, PhD, shared his perspective on Dr. Barber’s impact on the entire field of psychotherapy research, as well as their decades-long friendship and partnership in leading the field and training the next generation of researchers.
Robert DeRubeis, PhD, shared memories of Dr. Barber’s early career as a graduate student and his first impactful contributions to the field. Bernhard Strauss, PhD; Richard Summers, MD; Ellen Driessen, PhD; and Annika Lindgren, PhD, shared examples of Dr. Barber’s collaborative work on innovations in psychodynamic therapies and focus on therapeutic process and outcome. Drs. Strauss, Driessen and Lindgren, three of Dr. Barber’s many European collaborators, also discussed his international leadership and contribution to the study of psychotherapy research and development of a scientific community in Europe.
Gaby Shefler, PhD; Hadas Wiseman, PhD; Orya Tishby, PsyD; and Dr. Zilcha-Mano talked about Dr. Barber’s monumental impact on the Israeli research community and his pivotal role in shaping a community in Israel that became one of the most productive and innovative communities of psychotherapy research.
Derner Faculty, Alumni and Friends Share Their Stories
Robert Bornstein, PhD, and Kirkland Vaughans, PhD ’85, spoke about Dr. Barber’s contributions to the education and clinical training and practice at the Derner School of Psychology. Dr. Bornstein discussed Dr. Barber’s open-minded interdisciplinary and collaborative approach as a dean and his emphasis on transtheoretical and rigorous research and the advancements of students and faculty. Dr. Vaughans discussed Dr. Barber’s contribution to the founding of the Derner Hempstead Child Clinic, which provides clinical services and training opportunities to Derner students and has made a significant impact on the area, providing high-quality mental health services to children from underserved communities.
Some of Dr. Barber’s former PhD students, including Kevin McCarthy, Katie Aafjes van-Doorn, Brian Sharples, Dr. Zilcha-Mano and myself shared their personal experiences of being mentored by Dr. Barber. We described Dr. Barber’s generosity, thoughtful and open-minded approach to teaching, his integrity and commitment to rigor, his emphasis on collaboration, and his investment in each of his trainee’s personal and professional growth, as well as his emphasis on diversity and inclusion and advancing women and individuals from minority groups in science and clinical.
Members of the audience shared moving memories of their work and collaborations with Dr. Barber, their appreciation of his impact on their career and research, and their thoughts about how his legacy would continue.
Dr. Barber’s Legacy Continues
Dr. Barber’s family members shared that in addition to being a devoted mentor and a leading researcher, he is also a dedicated and loving father and grandfather.
Dr. Barber gave the final speech. He spoke about the importance of addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as the devaluation of facts and science and issues of social justice, and priorities for psychotherapy research, such as bringing evidence-based psychotherapies to underserved communities who need it most through stepped simplified treatment models. He shared his intention to continue to study and research, while also devoting more time to family and travel.
The event ended with a lovely reception and a toast to a brighter future in science and beyond.
—Nili Solomonov, MA ’15, PhD ’18, is a former student of Dr. Barber who collaborated with him on over 20 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters. She is currently an assistant professor of psychology at the Department of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medicine.