Arnold Allan Lazarus

A South African clinical psychologist who developed acomprehensive psychotherapy called multimodal therapy.

Lazarus was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1932, the son of Benjamin and Rachel (Mosselson) Lazarus. Educated at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, he earned his B.A. with honors in 1956, his M.A. in 1957, and his Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1960. In 1956, he married Daphne Ann Kessel, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

Develops behavior therapy

In 1958, while still a graduate student, Lazarus published a paper in the South African Medical Journal describing a new form of psychotherapy that he called behavior therapy. He began his private practice in psychotherapy in Johannesburg in 1959, and, in 1960, he became vice president of the Transvaal Workers Educational Association. In 1963, Lazarus spent a year as a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, and then he returned to the University of Witwatersrand as a lecturer in psychiatry at the medical school. In 1966, he returned to the United States as director of the Behavior Therapy Institute in Sausalito, California. That year he published Behavior Therapy Techniques with Joseph Wolpe. The following year, he moved to Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia as professor of behavioral science. He was a visiting professor of psychology and director of clinical training at Yale University in 1970.

Lazarus was the first psychologist to apply desensitization techniques for treating phobias in group therapy sessions. With Arnold Abramovitz, he was the first to use emotive imagery in treating children. He studied treatments for alcoholism and was one of the first to apply learning theory to the treatment of depression. By the 1960s, it was clear to Lazarus that the therapy movement he had initiated, using the stimulus-response mechanisms of behaviorist psychology, was too limited for effective psychotherapy. His 1971 book, Behavior Therapy and Beyond, laid the foundations for what became known as cognitive-behavior therapy.

Replaces behavior therapy with multimodal therapy

In 1972, Lazarus received his diploma in clinical psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology and returned to private practice in Princeton, New Jersey. He also became professor and chairman of the psychology department at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He joined the Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology in 1974. As Lazarus examined long-term results in patients who had undergone cognitive behavior therapy, he found some inadequacies. For patients with anxiety and panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive problems, depression, and family and marital difficulties, the relapse rate following therapy remained very high. He therefore developed a multimodal therapy, which involves examining and treating seven different but interrelated modalities, or psychological parameters. These modalities are behavior, physiology, cognition, interpersonal relationships, sensation, imagery, and affect. Thus, multimodal therapy involves a complete assessment of the individual and treatments designed specifically for that individual. His was the first theory/treatment to examine the wide perspective of influences on psychopathology. Lazarus developed his approach, in part, by questioning clients about the factors that had helped them in their therapy. In 1976, Lazarus founded the Multimodal Therapy Institute in Kingston, New Jersey, which he continued to direct until his death. He established additional Multimodal Therapy Institutes in New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, and Ohio. His book Multimodal Behavior Therapy was published in 1976.

Joins the self-help movement

In 1975, Lazarus published his first popular selfhelp book, I Can If I Want To, with his colleague Allen Fay. His 1977 book, In the Mind's Eye: The Power of Imagery for Personal Enrichment, described the use of mental imagery for personal growth. His subsequent popular psychology writings include several books written with his son, the psychologist Clifford Neil Lazarus. Their 1993 book with Allen Fay, Don't Believe It for a Minute! Forty Toxic Ideas that Are Driving You Crazy, encouraged people to stop repeating the same mistakes. They argued that misconceptions, such as “life should be fair,” lead to depression, anxiety, and feelings of guilt.

During his career, Lazarus treated thousands of clients, as individuals, couples, families, and groups. He was a diplomat of the International Academy of Behavioral Medicine, Counseling, and Psychotherapy, and he was elected to the National Academy of Practice in Psychology in 1982. Lazarus was the author or editor of 15 books and more than 200 articles and book chapters and made video and sound recordings. He served on the editorial boards of numerous psychology journals. Lazarus was a fellow of the APA beginning in 1972 and was on the board of Psychologists for Social Responsibility beginning in 1982. He was a recipient of the Distinguished Career Award from the American Board of Medical Psychotherapists and a fellow of the Academy of Clinical Psychology.

Lazarus continued to be active in treating patients until his death on October 9, 2013, in Princeton, New Jersey.

See also Cognitive behavior therapy; Desensitization .



Engler, Barbara. Personality Theories. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2014.

Dryden, Windy. A Dialogue with Arnold Lazarus: “It Depends.” Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1991.

Lazarus, Arnold A. Brief but Comprehensive Psychotherapy: The Multimodal Way. New York: Springer, 1997.

Lazarus, Arnold A. Marital Myths. San Luis Obispo, CA:Impact, 1985.

Lazarus, Arnold A. Relaxation Exercises. Guilford, CT: Audio-Forum, 1986. Sound cassettes.

Lazarus, Arnold A., and Clifford N. Lazarus. The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World. San Luis Obispo, CA: Impact, 1997.

Nezu, Christine, and Arthur Nezu, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.