Obituary – Cynthia J. Shilkret

Cynthia Johnson Shilkret died of a relatively brief course of cancer on February 3, 2021 at the Hospice of the Fisher Home in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Moe and Annette (Forman) Johnson. She was born May 24, 1947 and was raised in New York City. She graduated from Barnard College and earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She did her clinical training at Mount Zion Hospital and Medical Center (now University of California Medical Center) in San Francisco. She was a founding member of the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group (SFPRG), which was affiliated with the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute, then across the street from Mt. Zion. Her entire professional career was devoted to individual depth psychotherapy with adults, as therapist, teacher, and supervisor. Cynthia married Robert Shilkret in 1979 and relocated to South Hadley where she continued her professional career, first as Director of Clinical Services at what is now River Valley Counseling Center in Holyoke, and, after two years, in full-time continuous solo practice of adult psychotherapy in South Hadley, from 1979 until her death.

Cynthia taught for over three decades at the Smith College School for Social Work, in both the MSW and PhD programs. There, she taught courses in advanced ego psychology and the control-mastery theory of the SFPRG and the applications of attachment theory to psychotherapy with adults. She supervised a number of other therapists over her years of practice. She published articles and book chapters on difficult challenges in psychotherapy and on the applications of attachment theory to adult psychotherapy. Her writings were relatively small in number but high in quality and influence. They are used widely in teaching psychotherapy in the US and Europe. She also presented her work and ideas at national and international conferences and workshops.

However, her first and most passionate and life-long love was the intellectual challenge of doing individual psychotherapy, day to day. She never tired of this. Cynthia viewed each therapy as unique and as a relationship with her that could transform a person’s life. Very often, in the safety of being in a relationship with Cynthia, it did transform a life. Cynthia was devoted to figuring out how one’s unique experiences fit together to yield what she saw in front of her during the therapy hour. She loved the hard work of discovering with her patient the connections between past and present, and how she could help her patient use these insights to understand him/herself better, to feel better, and to function more efficiently.

Cynthia leaves her beloved husband, Bob; her sisters Basha Yonis (and spouse Fritz Howe) and Eleanor Kennedy (and spouse John); her nieces Shifra Yonis, Naomi Yonis (and spouse Ben Spangler), and Robin Shilkret; her nephew David Shilkret; and her sister-in-law and brother-in-law Ruth and Jack Shilkret. She also leaves many friends, colleagues, former patients on both coasts and current patients in this area.

Donations in Cynthia Shilkret’s memory may be made to (1) San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group (SFPRG), 1008 General Kennedy Ave., San Francisco, CA  94129. Or go to; then click on “Support SFPRG” and then click on “Donations” pulled down under “Support SFPRG.”  And to (2) Yiddish Book Center, 1021 West St., Amherst, MA  01002-3375

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