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Arlyn Miller

Birth:
1925

Death:
2013

Training Location(s):

Ed.D. (Psychology), Temple University, (1965)

MS (Psychology), City College, (1949)

BS (Education), City College, (1946)



Primary Affiliation(s):

Private Practice, (1965-present)

Cherry Hill School District

Camden County Child Guidance Clinic

Drexel University

Rutgers University

Glassboro College

Temple University



Media Links:
Professional Website

Dr. Arlyn Miller, Psychologist

Interview

Psychology's Feminist Voices Oral History Transcript

Video

Oral History Excerpt on YouTube: School Psychology and Betty Friedan

 


Biography:

 

Career Focus: Sex therapy; depression; anxiety; parenting; grief; domestic abuse; divorce; gay and lesbian issues.


 

"Was I a feminist? Am I feminist? What is a feminist? I am a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. I have been a wife and a lover. I am glad to be a woman."

 

During her childhood Arlyn Miller received mixed messages from her parents. On the one hand, her parents fostered her feminist identity. Miller reflected on one particular scenario that spoke volumes to her mother's encouragement of her being ambitious, independent, and doing "things most girls don't." At the age of 4, when Miller was complaining to her mother - who was on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor - to stop, Miller's mother responded to her with, "If you don't like what I'm doing, go out in the world and make something of yourself so that you don't have to do this."

 

On the other hand, despite this encouragement to break free from expected gender roles, Miller began to receive mixed messages from her mother once she graduated from high school. Miller recalls that she was expected to "do something" - be that independent and ambitious woman - but was at the same time expected to be a good Jewish housewife. Miller decided to be that ambitious woman her mother spoke of, and enrolled in the City College School of Education.

 

Because of the war, City College began to admit women. Miller recollects that her graduating class of 2,000 included a total of 100 women. She recalls this change to the campus cohort as sudden, with women using the old men's bathroom facilities, which included urinals. After her undergraduate degree, Miller endured a brief stint working in a factory as an industrial counselor until she realized that industry was not the place for her. She enrolled in, and completed, a Master's in psychological services at City College. After graduation, and giving birth to her son, Miller began to work in special education before her second pregnancy. Following the birth of her daughter, Miller served as a school psychologist.

 

Miller remained a school psychologist until the family moved to Haddonfield, New Jersey. At this time Miller decided it would be best to apply to the Doctorate in Psychology program at Temple University, as school psychologists were required to have a PhD. At Temple, Miller became aware of gender-based discrimination. She recalls her interview with the Dean of Education, in which he remarked of her educational ambitions, "Lady, what more do you want?" after she revealed that she had children, a husband, and a part-time job. Emotionally shocked, Miller left his office in tears. Luckily, she ran into Eleanor Isard in the elevator. At the time, Isard served as the head of the counseling department. Isard comforted Miller and told her that she would get her into the PhD program - and indeed, she did! Eleanor Isard became Miller's major professor, mentor, and role model.

 

Miller described her doctorate as a stressful time in which she was not only juggling conventional gender roles - being a mother and wife - but also being a student and a part-time employee at the Child Guidance Clinic. It seems that the mixed messages she received as a youth were resurfacing; she was "to make something of herself," but at the same time maintain her role as mother and wife. This was complicated by the fact that Miller believed she was doing something "you're not supposed to do." Regardless of these struggles and conflicting thoughts, Miller excelled and completed her PhD in 1965.

 

The completion of her PhD occurred during an era marked by the Civil Rights movement, and it preceded the second wave of feminism. When asked about her memories of this time, Miller explained that she - along with her cohorts - were unaware "that we were being mistreated or that there were rights for women." This is not to say that she was unaware of discrimination, but her awareness of social justice and equality issues were not aroused until the advent of meetings, lectures, and media attention devoted to women's issues.

 

After much contemplation, Miller decided that making a career in private practice best suited her needs. However, she continued to keep links with academia via colleagues, taking contract faculty positions, and attending conferences. After her divorce in 1971 she began to focus her skills and services around issues pertaining to divorce and sexuality.  Miller joined the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) and as a result, she became involved with issues relating to sexual harassment in the workplace as well as sex therapy.

 

Miller emphasized that if there is anything a woman in psychology should learn it is to "know yourself, don't be afraid, and bring others into your life" - know what it is that you want from your life, face any obstacles, and you will persevere. In her copy of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, there is an inscription that reads, "Good luck to us mutants. We need it." Miller explains that women "developed the way mutants have; when they first come out they're questionable, people are suspicious, but then as the years go by they become accepted and how could we have ever done without them?" Miller strongly believes that if women continue to know their goals, aspirations, potentials and inner selves, equality will be earned and recognized.

 

by Max Chewinski (2010)

To cite this article, see Credits


Selected Works:

Miller, A. H. (1973). The spontaneous use of poetry in an adolescent girls' group. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 23(2), 223-227.

Miller, A. H. (1976). Women and psychotherapy. Voices: Journal of the AAP, 12(45), 72-75.

 

Miller, A. (1985). Guidelines for divorcing parents. Psychotherapy in Private Practice, 3(1), 29-37.

 

Miller, A. H. (1985). Guidelines for step parenting. Psychotherapy in Private Practice, 3(2), 99-109.

 

 


Photo Gallery:


Video(s):

Interview with Arlyn Miller: School Psychology and Betty Friedan

Interview conducted on October 25, 2007 by Alexandra Rutherford in Philadelphia, PA. U.S.A.

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