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Strean, H.S. (1997). Who is Father? Where is Father? Some Facts, Fantasies, and Fallacies. Psychoanal. Soc. Work, 4(3):5-22.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Social Work, 4(3):5-22

Who is Father? Where is Father? Some Facts, Fantasies, and Fallacies

Herbert S. Strean, DSW

Close to four decades ago when I was a fledgling clinical social worker employed in a psychoanalytically oriented child guidance clinic, I observed a phenomenon which was very disconcerting. The upsetting observation was the consistent absence of the father in the treatment process. Not only were many fathers not invited to participate in the treatment plan, but when they were asked to do so, a huge percentage resisted the idea. Furthermore, when fathers did agree to become involved in a therapeutic plan, their attrition rate was much higher than those of mothers and children.

As I shared my observations with colleagues in and out of the treatment center where I was employed and in and out of the city where I worked, I became impressed with a nearly universal phenomenon, namely, that almost all agencies and clinics found it difficult to involve fathers in treatment.

Although I had remembered that Mary Richmond (1917), the founder of social casework, stated that in planning treatment it is mandatory to consider “all those who share a common table,” my study of practice and my review of the clinical literature in the late 1950s revealed that in practice, Richmond's admonition was rarely heeded. A couple of typical quotes that I unearthed from my perusal of the literature at the time are as follows.

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