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Joseph Zinker, PhD

Joseph Zinker, PhD, is a therapist who has contributed to the growth and development of Gestalt theory and also Gestalt methodology. He co-founded the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. 

Joseph Zinker started his studies in Russian Literature, Psychology, Philosophy and Art at Queens College and New York University. Then he earned a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (in 1963). His doctoral dissertation, Rosa Lee: Motivation and the Crisis of Dying (1966) became his first publication.

In the 1960s, he trained with Fritz Perls, a German-born who was one of the founders of Gestalt therapy, and other psychiatrists and psychotherapists. He became a Gestalt therapist and was a co-founder of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, where he spent many years as a member of the teaching faculty, the head of the postgraduate faculty, and as a member of the Center for the Study of Intimate Systems. Together with Sonia Nevis, he headed this center which has taken a role in the application of the Gestalt model to work with families and couples.

In the 1970s, Miriam Polster, Bill Warner and Joseph Zinker developed Gestalt theory with the formulation of the contact cycle and also the awareness-excitement-contact cycle. Joseph Zinker is known for refining the clinical concepts of complementarity and middle ground in couple work and for the application of Gestalt therapy. He helped grow the principles of Gestalt group process and the place of the Gestalt experiment in therapeutic work.

In 1980, Zinker continued to develop the cycle of experience: he applied it to groups and group development. With his wife, Gestalt therapist Sandra Cardosa-Zinker, he published several articles about couples therapy.