Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

Living Edition
| Editors: Jay Lebow, Anthony Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Attneave, Carolyn L.

  • Heather ColquhounEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_1079-1


Carolyn L. Attneave, Ph.D. (1920–1992)


Carloyn L. Attneave was one of the best known American-Indian psychologist due to her contributions in cross-cultural issues and network therapy in the field of family therapy.


In 1940, Attneave completed her Bachelor’s degree in English and Theatre at California State University, Chico. Attneave returned to school shortly after graduating to pursue a second baccalaureate in elementary education. Attneave put her teaching career on hold and joined the Coast Guard during World War II, which made her one of the first female officers. While in the Coast Guard, Attneave researched the educational needs of Japanese families. Attneave was inspired to pursue psychology after participating in a mental health training course.

After the war was over, Attneave returned to Stanford in 1947 to begin her doctoral work in counseling psychology. In 1952, Attneave received her Ph.D. from Stanford. Attneave spent several years in Texas teaching at various institutions such as Texas Technical College and Texas Woman’s University. Attneave moved to Oklahoma and began a new position as the coordinator of community guidance services for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which serviced seven different American Indian tribes. In 1968, Attneave moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to work at the Child Guidance Clinic where she began to focus on network therapy. For the next 6 years, Attneave collaborated with physicians, civic organizations, tribal and federal agencies, tribal leaders, and medicine men and women by providing mental health services. Attneave began her teaching career at Harvard University’s School of Public Health in 1973 then later joined the faculty of the University of Washington for the remaining 15 years of her career.

Contributions to Profession

Attneave developed network therapy when her interest in an individual’s support network beyond one’s family offered an alternative to hospitalization for mental health concerns. Throughout Attneave’s career, she worked with leaders within the health care field to increase mental health services for individuals of variously diverse backgrounds. Attneave strived to gain a better cultural understanding of the cultural contexts of her clients. Attneave developed a stage model for network therapy and created a map for patients and professionals to help identify people and relationships of a network. In 1973, Attneave released her book, Family Networks, coauthored by Ross Speck, which provided a comprehensive guide to using network therapy.

A year later, Attneave moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and founded the Boston Indian Council. The Boston Indian Council became known to be one of the largest Indian Centers in North America. Attneave also developed a newsletter to exchange information about services available to Indian communities called the Network of Indian Psychologists. During her time at the Harvard School of Public Health, Attneave produced a nine-volume document on the mental health needs, service networks, and utilization patterns for the Indian Health Service. During the last 15 years of Attneave’s career, she dedicated herself to educating others at the University of Washington as a professor of psychology and director of the American Indian Studies Program while she continued her work in network therapy and involved herself in community services.


Key Citations

  1. Attneave, C. L. (1976). Family network map. Boston: Boston Family Institute.Google Scholar
  2. Attneave, C. L. (1990). Core network intervention: An emerging paradigm. Journal of Strategic and Systematic Therapies, 9, 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. LaFromboise, T. D., & Fleming, C. (1990). Keeper of the fire: A profile of Carolyn Attneave. Journal of Counseling & Development, 68(5), 537–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. LaFromboise, T. D., & Trimble, J. E. (1996). Obituary: Carolyn Lewis Attneave (1920–1992). American Psychologist, 51(5), 549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Speck, R. V., & Attneave, C. L. (1973). Family networks: Retribalization and healing. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Couple and Family TherapyAlliant International University, SacramentoSacramentoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kristina S. Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Couple and Family Therapy DepartmentAdler UniversityChicagoUSA