In Memoriam: Steve Walfish 1953-2016
TPI has lost one of its founders. Steve Walfish died peacefully on April 27 of a late-diagnosed cancer that progressed very quickly. Just 6 weeks prior he had taught an ethics class to a group of grad students. Here is a photo with Steve, Dr. Linda Campbell and the happy students!
Steve will be deeply missed!
If you'd like to leave a comment about a memory or experience with Steve, please enter it below. We will forward all comments to his wife.
What a mark Steve left on all of his supervisees – I was lucky enough to be one of them. His enthusiasm was infectious and his encouragement steered me to things I never thought I would do. I am so grateful for it! Steve was instrumental in the creation of a book co-authored by myself and another supervisee, Dr. Carina Iati. We laughed at his initial suggestion, and when it finally came to fruition we had Steve to thank. Steve continually offered his mentorship and I have gratefully accepted and benefitted over these last few years. Thank you, Steve. For everything. You will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.
I wanted to tell you that Steve had a large impact on me as a person and professional. I first met him as an undergraduate at Georgia State. He was my professor and he asked that the class write a paper about why they were interested in psychology. I struggled with some demons throughout my teens, and included that in the paper. After he read and graded the paper he brought it back to me and across the top read “You are a f!@#$%^ miracle!” and he just smiled. That had a large impact on me, as you can imagine that is not what I anticipated. Anyways, he continued to provide mentoring, personal, and professional advice over the years. I most recently had dinner with him a few months back, as he was working on convincing me to start my own practice : ) I just wanted you to know that he was always so kind, considerate, and helpful to me. You and your family are in my prayers.
Although we never met in person, I came to consider Steve a real ally. He was one of the most generous psychologists I’ve ever known. If you were searching for a resource, all you had to do was mention your need and he’d either share one or point you in the right direction. His posts on several listserves were always thoughtful and informative. What a loss for us all! Rest in peace, dear friend.
I also never met your husband, Mrs. Walfish. I was looking forward to learning from him through The Practice Institute. My loss. But the collective loss of us in the world of psychology is little compared to your loss and that of other members of your family. My prayers and wishes are with all of you during the difficult days ahead. May you have peace even in your grief.
Steve was a joy to be with. Always a smile on his face with an ambitious project on his mind. Steve asked me to write a chapter for one of his books, which I was honored to do. And asked me to be one of his first interviewees when The Practice Institute was a fledgling organization. In case I ever harbored the narcissistic belief that somehow I was ‘special’ in Steve’s eyes, all the many testimonials he has received have disabused me of that idea. Clearly, it was Steve who was ‘special’ in the true meaning of the word. My condolences to his family and work family.
Mrs. Walfish: I was shocked when I learned about Steve’s passing. I haven’t cried like this since my father passed away nearly 13 years ago. I met Steve about 7 or 8 years ago at an APA Convention. From that moment, I considered him among my “inner circle” of professionals that I could call on at any point with a question or for advise. Steve and Pauline presented a workshop for us less than a year ago and the response was fantastic. Steve was supposed to be the keynote speaker at the Ohio Psychological Association annual convention this weekend. An announcement was made at the convention that Steve was ill but nothing more was said. I went there for the sole purpose of seeing Steve. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, your entire family and the entire mental health community that Steve touched so profoundly. This is a huge loss for everyone. He will be missed by all.
Marty Saeman, Managing Editor
The National Psychologist
620-F Taylor Station Rd.
Gahanna, Ohio 43230
Rarely has any one person had such an impact on so many of his peers throughout the country. Steve baffled me at times with his selflessness and generosity – he seemed solely focused on giving, and what he got in return appeared to be a mere afterthought. My sincere condolences to his family – his reputation will be his unending legacy.
Our community has lost an amazing person. I am part of the “I never met Steve in person, but he greatly influenced my life” club. Here are 3 ways in which Steve influenced me:
1. I read all the books he wrote, sometimes multiple times. If not for his written work, I doubt I would have launched a private practice. When I work with younger professionals, I impress upon them the importance of reading Steve’s work, multiple times. Steve’s wisdom remains accessible to us, even as he does not.
2. Steve has written many comments on listservs that have been poignant and honest. The most recent comment that struck me was about an evaluation. While most people were trying to find resources for the evaluation, Steve simply commented that he just wouldn’t do the eval; the money wouldn’t be worth the stress. He had a simple way of showing another truth, especially when his point of view did not align with the majority.
3. A few months ago I randomly sent Steve an email. In response to the email (to a stranger!), he gave me his cell phone #, and encouraged me to actually call him. His insights in that conversation were crucial to the success of my current project. He gave freely and without expectation of repayment (other than to perhaps inspire others to change the world – which he only suggests by example, and never directly). I am a fan of pay-it-forward, and will continue to pay The Generosity of Steve forward.
I still struggle to wrap my mind around the notion that Steve is not here. I can only image how others feel, others who actually had daily contact with him. You, more than any of us, know the impact Steve had.
When I think of Steve, I will send my peace and love to you.
I first met Steve at a Fast Forward Conference a few years ago. I appreciated his warmth and his many contributions at that conference. He was an inspiration in my efforts to grow my independent practice in more creative and lucrative ways, at that conference and through the many ways he was involved in Division 42. More recently, I was honored by his invitation to write a chapter for a book for which he was an author. Just last month he provided such positive and encouraging feedback to me about the chapter I wrote. His feedback meant a lot to me. Though I didn’t know him well, he certainly touched my life and contributed to who I am as a psychologist. I will remember him as warm, gracious, smart, funny, and kind. I will honor his memory with silent gratitude and a smile each month as I review the growth in my private practice and will aspire to be the kind of scientist-practitioner that Steve exemplified. Please know that I am holding Steve’s family, close friends and colleagues in my heart and prayer as you grieve his loss and seek comfort in his memory.
To al Steve’s family and closest professional colleagues–I am so very sorry to hear if Steve’s untimely death. He was a special psychologist, a connector who brought us new knowledge and information and encouraged active participation, of which he was the supreme model. I had a very enjoyable time when he interviewed me about integrated primary care, and wrote him only 3 weeks ago about how impressed I was with the first issue of Practice Innovations. We all grieve his loss, and are at the same time, so grateful for what he brought to us all. My thoughts are with his family and all of you at the Practice institute.
The news has left everyone connected in any way with this unique person surrounded by sadness .
What can we say and how can we accept the shocking and sad sad news of Steve Walfish’ s death. So sad. Such a loss. In less than a quick thirty minutes he had figured me out completely, the difficulty of the situation I face and many suggestions and analyses for further thought. We had joy together , joy in my “lists ” to him repeating much of our time together. He often laughed at my humor and my synthesizing phrases that became part of our conversations, texts and emails
What a loss How sad.
I want others important in his life to know of how, by Steve ‘s unique professional and personal skills, a fresh new stranger received life long enrichment from those brief encounters with such a remarkable and unique person
We hold fast to those memories
The world has lost such an incredible and inspirational human being and it’s with a heavy heart that I write this. I was fortunate to have Steve as a supervisor and there wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t look forward to meeting with him. With ease, he created a sense of safety and stability and was a continuous source of support. His endless knowledge, humility, ingenuity, and passion were unrivaled. And who could forget his sense of humor – it was wonderful. He was truly a rare and special gem. He will be greatly missed but not forgotten.
I had the wonderful fortune of getting to know Steve through Division 42. He supported and mentored me as an author and encouraged me to enter the publishing world in a way I had not really thought possible. Because of him I published a new book on Dissociative Identity Disorder and chapters in several other books and even had me review a journal article. He had incredible warmth and a wonderful sense of humor. I have no idea how he accomplished all he did. He always seemed to have time for all of us.I will really miss him. But I can only imagine your sense of loss. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you as you go through this very difficult time.
We have lost a visionary psychologist who initiated many innovative ways of supporting mental health clinical practice. Steve will be missed.by all of us whose lives he touched. Steve, Jeff and Pauline mentored me through the publication of my book, for which I am grateful. We thank Steve for his generativity and support.
I have been trying to find the words…and to me there just do not seem to be many that express how saddened I am by Steve’s passing. I had the privilege of working with Steve on a number of activities over the years; and the joy of calling him ‘friend.’ In our activities related to APA’s Division of Independent Practice, the causes are important but I always said ‘It’s the people’ that matter. Steve was among the top I have had the pleasure to know. The thing that I remember the most about Steve is how much he always seemed to be busy giving and doing for others. With a seemingly limitless amount of energy and enthusiasm to keep going, keep moving forward, keep on giving. We have lost a wonderful colleague, leader, mentor, clinician. And that does not really begin to acknowledge who he was and what he gave to his family and those who were close enough to love him and be loved by Steve. May his family find peace in the knowledge of all that he was to all who knew him.
With deepest sadness, condolences to his close colleagues at TPI, to those he taught and showed the way, and to his family, and with gratitude for having had the chance to know Steve.
Steve was a very close colleague of myself and my husband (Lawrence Riso) for nearly 20 years since we were on the faculty at Georgia State University beginning in the late 1990s. The three of us collaborated on countless projects, student advisement, editorial boards, etc., including working with him on one of my student’s dissertations here over the past 6 months. All of these active collaborations on many projects continued from our time in Atlanta throughout the past 10 years since we relocated to DC.
Steve was the most selfless, energetic, bright, forward thinking, creative, impactful colleagues we have ever, or will ever, have. We were actively communicating with him on a near weekly basis up until just a couple of weeks ago. I sent so many of our PsyD students to communicate with Steve via email or via TPI because he embodied what we are trying to teach our students here- how to be a scientifically grounded, flexible, thoughtful clinician. He also modeled how to really do the practitioner-scholar thing, as an extremely active and insightful clinician while producing tons of clinically useful publications and having a true dedication to teaching and supervising students and early-career psychologists.
Steve also touched the life of my very close family member of mine who pursued a bariatric surgery evaluation with him 10 years ago. Steve advocated for this process when no one else would consider working with him because of his extremely high weight. The surgery was immensely successful, that family member’s life has forever been changed as a result, and we largely have Steve to thank for it. Larry and I are devastated at the loss of such a unique colleague and friend we have been fortunate to have for the past two decades.
I have had the extreme honor of working with Steve these past few years. As an early career psychologist he encouraged and supported me. We discussed ethical matters and consulted each other often. He always supported my professional development while also encouraging personal growth. He was a colleague, a mentor, a friend, and he will be deeply missed.
Steve will be deeply missed on a professional and personal level by myself and countless others. I had the opportunity to have Steve as a mentor during post doc and frequently reached out to him for guidance and support in the years following. He had a way of putting things into perspective and was such a inspiring and calming force. When I was considering a major change in my private practice, Steve was my first call. There was nothing to gain for him, but he offered to meet for dinner and discuss his thoughts and ideas. Every interaction I had with Steve was memorable for one reason or another, be it his wit, invaluable professional advice, or just his way of genuinely engaging with everyone. During one of our dinner get together’s I told Steve that I did not know how I could repay him for everything that he had done for me and he jokingly responded, you are a bright guy, I am sure you will come up with something…and remember cash or checks are always nice. Of course he followed that up with something to the effect of that he was just glad that he can be helpful and make a difference, which he most definitely did in my life. Steve’s passion seemed to be driven by seeing others thrive and succeed and he had a significant hand in endless successes. He was such a motivating factor in my professional life, but I also considered him to be a friend. Steve touched so many lives and I was deeply saddened to hear the news. I would like to express my most sincere condolences to Steve’s family.
I recently became a TPI member. In my first call in I spoke alone with Steve, He was friendly, supportive and quite a gentleman.
Because of this encounter, I was pleased I joined TPI. He will be missed. My hope is the TPI staff will carry on his legacy.
Steve was first a mentor, then a colleague, then a dear and trusted friend. For many years we met and talked and shared thoughts and ideas. He guided and advised and helped me to require much of myself. He was wise and kind. His humanity was enormous. His ethics were spotless. He had a crazy great sense of humor. He loved psychology, as do I. He adored Mary and said so all the time. I am grateful that he was, for this too brief a time, my friend, and I will miss him more than words can express.
I met Steve through APA. For that I am grateful. He was always a positive presence. A scholar, a clinician, an entrepreneur who saw challenge where others saw problems. I remember still a brief but meaningful chat with him a few years ago. He had a gift for seeming totally present to the interaction and for giving you his complete and undivided attention. He will be missed.
I am shocked by the passing of Dr. Walfish. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family.
I was a patient. Dr. Walfish helped me immensely- mental health issues in my family had me close to homicidal and suicidal. All his advice was ‘right on,’ and allowed me to get to the emotional space where I could navigate problems without making things worse for myself, or others.
He will be truly missed. God bless.
Dear Mary, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to interact with Steve over that past 6 years. He spoke so fondly of you, with great love in his eyes and words. And, he bragged that you were the one to come up with the idea for the Super Size Group Practice symposium! A top-notch scientist-practitioner, he gave of himself to the psychological community and to the many of us that had the honor of knowing him.
I knew Steve first as a mentor and then as a colleague. He was always supportive, genuine, encouraging, brilliant, passionate about psychology and private practice, and a truly special person and Psychologist. He has given the field of Psychology so much and was such a strong voice and presence for those of us in private practice. His insights, thoughts, and support have been invaluable. He will be deeply missed. I have such gratitude for having known him. My thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with his family.
I am so sorry to have heard of Steve’s passing. He was truly an inspiration and great mentor. Below is an excerpt from my dissertation acknowledgments page that I just wondered again if I’d ever showed him. He will be missed profoundly!
“I am grateful for the personal and professional support and encouragement over the years by Dr. Steven Walfish, who continues to share his expertise…”
I knew Steve as my 1st cousin, good friend and colleague as we both were Clinical Psychologists, he in private practice and me working as a Clinical and Neuropsychologist for a large HMO in the Seattle area. We spent a lot of time together and I found him to be so kind, gentle and caring that it was so easy to be with him and his Wife, Mary. Like others have said, he was most generous and every time we had a conversation, you knew he was totally listening to you. I am so proud of Steve and his accomplishments with the Practice Institute and the Person I knew him to be. I will miss him terribly and will use his memory as a model for the person I would like to be. I love you Steve and rest in peace.
I’m just shocked by the loss of Steve. I’m so grateful to him for his friendship, humor, and as an inspiration to finish our book. He is truly loved and will be forever missed by the Southeastpsych family.
Steve was huge force of positivity, not just as a clinical psychologist, but simply as an individual. If he wasn’t so terribly humble, he would be intimidating. He was my friend and colleague for 20 years. He was an incredible model as a clinical psychologist and everything that’s been said about his life as a psychologist does honor to his life as a professional. With his death, I have focused just as much on what a deeply honest, caring, and compassionate person he was…down to the very bottom of his soul. Anyone who knew him would say the same. He would have contributed his positive energy to the world even if he never became a psychologist. While am shocked and saddened by his death, I find some comfort in reflecting on how privileged and fortunate I am simply to have known him. Now, the task for all of us who knew Steve, is to try to be a little more like him.
I am deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Steve. At a time when I was leaving postgraduate work and starting into the workforce he provided valuable advice and encouragement. I appreciated his wisdom and his compassion over the past several years.
I took a course from Steve as an undergrad and enjoyed it so much I decided to take another. After graduation, I sought his advice on applying for graduate school, and he has been a mentor to me since that time. Steve was always so generous and humble. I remember missing a meeting we had scheduled once, and despite his busy schedule, Steve was forgiving. After I left Atlanta, I’d hear from him every once in a while, and we would check-in on the grad school process. He was so encouraging with each and every minor accomplishment I had made. Once, when I was back in Atlanta to visit my parents, I had the opportunity to enjoy lunch with him at Cracker Barrel – he spoke so fondly of Mary, and I told him, “I look forward to meeting her one day.” Steve was truly a person I could only aspire to be like – quite an admirable character, he had. My heart is saddened. He will be missed.
Mrs. Walfish, I am so very sorry and saddened by Steve’s passing. I was one of those very lucky students of Dr. Lilenfeld when she suggested that I contact Steve for some insight and guidance in the area of bariatric surgery evaluations, a specialty area I was interested in pursuing after completing grad school. Steve and I communicated through emails initially, then I had the opportunity to talk with him a few times by phone relating to my postdoc, as I was completing that in a private practice setting. When we initially corresponded through emails, I still had almost two years left of grad school. Steve was so very supportive, kind, and genuine. As I read his emails, I kept shaking my head, had a smile on my face, and said to myself “Who takes the time to share all this knowledge and expertise with a grad student?” It was simply amazing — any questions I had he answered honestly, unbelievably willing to “share” with me his experiences working in this area, along with sending me helpful resources related to the topics we discussed. Steve had never met me, yet his words communicated his enthusiasm to support and help grad students any way he could in a career he was so devoted to and passionate about. His kindness and positive words were almost overwhelming. I communicated to Steve that I was an older student who gave up a professional career that never seemed to be the perfect fit for me to pursue a journey I had always dreamed of. Again, Steve was extremely positive and encouraging, and very happy I made that choice. Simply put, Steve was a selfless, generous, and kind individual devoted to the science of Psychology, and I am so sad I never had the opportunity to meet Steve in person. I will always be grateful for the knowledge and support! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time.
Steve shifted the way I see myself, the professional community, and the world around me. Steve was not only a mentor and confidant, but also my friend. I will miss his “smile” emails and candid comments. He will always remain in my heart. Peace to you Steve.
Steve was a colleague and friend. I met Steve at Gwinnett Medical Center in 2011, when I was hired as the Behavioral Health Coordinator for the Bariatric Program. He was a wealth of knowledge, and a supportive friend during my time at Gwinnett. After I left this position, I struggled with some changes in my life, and Steve proved to be a great friend while I journeyed through a new chapter in my life. His suggestions and support helped me during this time of need. Blessings to his wife. May he rest in peace.
I enjoyed meeting Steve as a TPI member and at the 2015 Division 42 Fast Forward conference, and echo others’ comments about his accessibility, kindness and generosity. I have been inspired by his vision for creating paths to mental health practices that are both financially successful and embody the highest ideals of clinical practice, science, and ethics and his passion for helping others find the path that works for them. I loved the live interviews he did with Authors and Experts for TPI, showcasing the breadth of his interests and his talents as an interviewer. I had the pleasure of being seated next to him at a Dine Around at last year’s Fast Forward Conference. The conversation turned to art and he shared photos of his wife’s beautiful art work with obvious love and pride.
As a TPI member, I emailed Steve on April 17 to request consultation about upcoming decisions in relocating my practice. He replied immediately, asking if I were free at 11:00 on April 19. I could not do that time and emailed back other possibilities, but never heard back, which was perplexing and not at all characteristic of my previous communications with him. Of course, after the shocking news of his passing on April 27, I understood why. It is nearly incomprehensible to me that just a little over a week prior to his death, in the midst of his grave medical condition, he would have attempted to respond to my request for consultation–just another example of the impulse to selfless generosity and responsiveness that so many others have mentioned. Thanks, Steve.
I was so sad and shocked to read of Steve’s death in the GPA newsletter. His death is a loss to all who knew him and is a real loss to the clients served by Positive Impact. Steve has served a volunteer for Positive Impact Health Centers for many years. The agency serves primarily low-income HIV-positive people and provides mental health and substance abuse treatment services. Steve generously agreed year after year to supervise Positive Impact’s doctoral student interns. This meant that he gave an hour a week to hearing about their cases, helping develop their skills, and teaching them how to function as professionals. He had so much humor and heart, was an incredible teacher and role model. I can think of at least one student whose life path was changed by the work they did together, and another who became a close colleague. I know that his supervision helped us to provide our clients truly quality care that resulted in better lives. We will miss Steve so much. He was a treasure.
I am heartbroken by the news of Steve’s passing. Steve was a professor, mentor and friend of mine during my undergraduate studies. I was fortunate enough to have been afforded the opportunity to assist Steve with a few of his research projects and absolutely loved working with him. He was a kind soul who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. He will surely be missed!
What a pleasure it was to work with Steve on Practice Innovations for several months and to see the first issue come to print. I could not have asked for a more gracious journal editor. Extremely saddened by his passing, and sending my thoughts to Steve’s family and friends.
I was fortunate to “meet” Steve virtually via email and phone and by contributing to his edited book Translating Psychological Research Into Practice. Professional psychology has lost a generous and dedicated champion.