Featured Psychologist: Carolyn Lewis Attneave, PhD

Carolyn Lewis Attneave, PhDCarolyn Lewis Attneave, PhD’s iconic career in cross-cultural topics and in counseling and psychotherapy has made her one of the greatest scholars in the field of psychology. She is internationally renowned making her one of the most well-known American Indian psychologist. As a descendant of the Delaware Indian tribes, Dr. Attneave grew to appreciate her unique upbringing that was infused with a deep sense of American Indian culture that influenced her subsequent career choice in the study of diversity. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English and theater from Chico State College in California. After graduating she became a public school teacher, but shortly transitioned into graduate school at Stanford University. In 1952, she earned her PhD degree from Stanford, where she fostered a special interest for working with children in the larger context of family and community.

Attneave’s career in community work began, after she moved to Oklahoma to become the coordinator of community guidance services for the Oklahoma State Department of Health. While in Oklahoma, she worked alongside a large interdisciplinary team to provide mental health services to seven American Indian tribes. Attneave's strong sense of community was a catalyst in her moving from one region to the next in an effort to provide mental health services to American Indians. In 1968, she relocated to Philadelphia to begin working on ways to refine retribalization concepts using network therapy for schizophrenic patients with Jay Haley and Ross Speck. After working in Philadelphia, the city affectionately known as the city of brotherly love, Attneave moved to Boston to coordinate the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Public Service Career Program. The moved to Boston proved itself to be pinnacle moment in her career. It is in Boston, that she founded one of the largest Indian Centers in North America called the Boston Indian Council. While in Boston, Attneave did not grow weary. In fact, she remained committed to her cause and energized to go on to start the Network of Indian Psychologist, a newsletter to exchange information about services available to Indian communities. Attneave’s work led her to The Department of Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Heath, where she produced a nine-volume document on the mental health needs, service networks and utilization patterns for the Indian Health Service.

The last 15 years of Attneave’s career were spent at the University of Washington as a distinguished professor of psychology and director of the American Indian Studies Program. Attneave’s immeasurable life which was filled with numerous accomplishments and honors, came to an end on June 22, 1992.


Teresa D. La Fromboise & Joseph E. Trimble (1996). Obituary of Carolyn Lewis Attneave (1920-1992). American Psychologist®, 51, 549.