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David Phillips, DSW, AAPCSW Past President
April 6, 1935 - April 4, 2015

In Memoriam
by William S. Meyer, MSW

A number of years ago … I asked my analytic supervisor what the definition of “malpractice” was in the context of psychoanalysis. He considered my question for a minute, and then said that since psychoanalysts never touch their patients he did not think there was any such thing as malpractice in psychoanalysis. In retrospect I now feel almost grateful to him for that gross piece of misinformation since it contributed greatly to putting me on my main professional track, and I have learned a great deal over the last twenty years in understanding just how wrong he was, and why. (Phillips, D.G., 2003)

Such was the quality of intriguing and inviting writing from the late David G. Phillips, DSW. David, who died on April 4th, 2015, two days shy of his 80th birthday, was a President of the AAPCCSW and I was his successor.* David suggested that he could be of most help to me as incoming President if we could arrange a time to talk with each other on the phone every Sunday evening, which we did for a year. As David patiently “broke me in,” I discovered his knowledge of the history of social work and psychoanalytic organizations was vast. David’s rich intellect, deep empathy and razor-sharp wit made these one-on-one consultations a rare treat, whereas with someone of lesser talents, these weekly meetings could have been for me an unbearable bore. I also had the privilege of sitting next to David during a number of meetings of the Psychoanalytic Consortium and it was not lost on me how respected he was by the Presidents and leadership of the other psychoanalytic organizations.

When colleagues became aware of David’s passing, the heartfelt tributes from the luminaries and icons of clinical social work came pouring in, mostly in reference to David’s contributions to social work ethics and his generosity in helping his colleagues struggle with ethical questions. Some direct quotes: “… an invaluable contributor to the world of social work ethics;” “ … a visionary leader … a person who loved people;” “ … … warm, friendly, accessible, gentle and kind;” “ … a true gentleman;” “I will forever carry his philosophy of ethics with me; ” “…an internal good object -- always ready to help me;” “ … a guiding light for all of us for decades; ” “ … a tireless advocate for psychoanalytic social work, always willing to assume leadership positions in professional organizations and to help colleagues struggling with legal and ethical concerns.”

Many people commented on their enjoyment of David’s wry wit and, knowing David, I think he would have been delighted for me to share one of my favorite memories, demonstrating why that is so. As President and President-elect respectively, one of our charges was to attend the Psychoanalytic Consortium with the leaders of the other major American psychoanalytic organizations. During these meetings, which often involved debates about training standards, etc., discussions could become quite heated. During one such especially contentious discussion, a representative from one of the other psychoanalytic organizations, essentially lost it. Shaking and red in the face, this man glared at the rest of us, shouted and scolded everyone seated around the table. A stony silence fell over the participants in that extremely tense room. David leaned over and whispered in my ear – and this was so inimitably David – “Can you imagine,” David said, with his wry smile, “what this guy must have been like before his analysis!”

I will leave the last words of this brief essay to his wife Mary Anne. (I was stunned, incidentally, to learn that Mary Anne also passed away, just months after David’s death). Immediately after David died, Mary Anne wrote, “David held himself to very high standards of ethical and moral behavior. He had a great deal of personal integrity. As a husband, he was loyal and trustworthy. In addition, he was incredibly kind, generous and giving. We were married for 45 years and had what we thought was an unusually happy marriage. We spoiled each other rotten and we felt so lucky to have each other in our lives. Thankfully, we told this to each often. Despite the suddenness of his death, nothing was left unsaid or unresolved between us.”

David’s death was an enormous loss to social work, to psychoanalysis, and to all who care about ethical practice.
~ William S. Meyer, MSW

* David was also a training and supervising analyst at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health in New York City and an adjunct Associate Professor at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work of Yeshiva University. He was named a Distinguished Practitioner in Social Work by the National Academies of Practice, Ethics Chair and Past President of the New York State Society for Clinical Social Work and Co-Chair of the Professional Standards Committee of the Clinical Social Work Federation. He had written numerous papers, particularly concerning the matter of ethics and clinical standards, and co-edited books on the impact of managed care.

Phillips, D. G. (2003). “Dangers of Boundary Violations in the Treatment of Borderline Patients.” Journal of Clinical Social Work. 31(3):315-326.


It is with great shock and sadness that I share with you the sudden passing of our esteemed colleague and friend, David Phillips. He was a founding member of the NYS Society for Clinical Social Work and an invaluable contributor to the world of social work ethics among many other accomplishments.
~ Marsha Wineburgh

David's sudden passing is beyond words.  David was a visionary, leader, and above all a person who loved people. I remember first working with him during the early days of the development of the NYSSCSW in 1970 when clinical social work was suffering its near demise by the NASW's attempt to lower standards; the New York State 1971 Peter Biondo bill that attempted to give the right of psychology to supervise all clinical social workers (still have a copy); and the lack of recognition by psychiatry. In our meetings, I never saw David flinch at realizing the compounding difficulties facing our profession. He had a calm forcefulness that not only captured the attention of our members but impressed the members of the state legislature. It was as if David somehow knew we would survive if we steadfastly kept moving forward. He enthusiastically supported the need to include psychoanalysis as a function of clinical social work to ensure parity with psychology with medicine.  As we know, David was dedicated to preserving and clarifying ethical standards for our profession. Perhaps it was this dedication to honesty and fairness that best captures David's character. His leadership continues in my mind.
~ Crayton Rowe

That really and terribly saddens me, Marsha. David was the president of the AAPCSW (then, the NMCOP), when I was president-elect and, as such, we would talk with each other every Sunday evening as he patiently tutored me and “broke me in,” so to speak, on what I needed to know to assume organizational responsibilities.  I sat next to him during many Consortium Meetings and I vividly remember how respected he was by the presidents and leadership of the other psychoanalytic organizations. David's common sense, keen intellect and wry wit (he really enjoyed humor) were qualities I deeply admired. He was a true mentor to me in so many ways.  What a substantial loss to all of us.
~ William (Bill) Meyer

David was a great mentor to many of us and a valued contributor to all, especially for his expertise in ethics.  My favorite memories of David, however, are of a lighter side. We shared a number of meals together and, with his wife Mary Anne, we thoroughly enjoyed food and foodie conversations. I am so sorry to hear of his death and I will miss him greatly. He was a great teacher, colleague, mentor and friend.
~ Barbara Berger

I am deeply saddened at the death of Dave Phillips and wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to Mary Anne, to all his friends and family, and to our social work community. He is a loss for us all. I initially met Dave when we shared our efforts on the first Study Group, to which he made a most significant contribution. From that point on I have appreciated his wisdom, his integrity, his hard work, his caring for those we serve and his deep devotion to our field. One felt one could count on him to know the appropriate steps to resolving an issue and to guide us in moving forward. He was warm, friendly, accessible, gentle and kind as well firm and steady in his views and stances. He will be deeply missed both personally and by our profession.
~ Joyce Edward

My heart fills with sadness to the overflowing! I came to know David during the very early years of the Study Group in the late 70s where we served together & we worked together on a subcommittee tasked with clarifying standards for psychoanalytic training. During my time as Chair of the Study Group, he was such a constant source of consultation & support.  Although our contacts were only via e-mail after I left New York, it was so good to know he was there. I consulted with him last in 2013 around a difficult clinical-legal issue; and his steadfast support, of course, was there as always. I will so miss reading his comments on the Listserve:  his clinical sensitivity, clarity of thinking, and steadfast ability to apply all to any situation at hand -- all that & much more was so evident in everything he wrote.  And he loved his horses and riding -- his horses will miss him also, I am sure. My heart goes out to his dear Mary Anne!
~ Marga Speicher

I would like to add my voice to the many who have already expressed sadness and dismay at the passing of David Phillips. David has been an esteemed colleague as well as personal friend who I knew since the 1970’s when I underwent my training in psychoanalysis at the then Postgraduate Psychoanalytic Institute for Mental Health. He invited me to become education chairperson of the New York State Society of Mental Health and we worked together for many years since. He was a wise as well as a gifted leader who made a lasting contribution to the field of social work. He will be missed.
~ Dianne Heller Kaminsky

This sad news is quite unbelievable. David and I had been working on an article together for the past year that just got published and had breakfast in New York two months ago.  He was about to start revising the CSWA Code of Ethics.  There is no one who had the breadth of knowledge that he had about ethics in clinical social work. He was a delightful person and an invaluable friend. I will miss him greatly.  Mourning his loss will be very hard.
~ Laura W. Groshong

Back in the 80's I was fortunate to work on the new Ethics initiative with David. As others have eloquently stated David's keen mind, wit and steady hand made all who worked with and knew him better for it. He is already missed.
~ Carl

I would like to join you in expressing my sorrow about David's death and extend my condolences to his family. I have fond memories of David from our work at the Clinical Social Work Federation (currently CSWA) and the early days of the formation of AAPCSW. I appreciated his integrity and disciplined scholarly approach to professional issues in general and his commitment to our social work values and ethics in particular. In addition to his work on our ethical guidelines, he also contributed much to the National Academies of Practice's articulation of ethical principles in interdisciplinary practice. And, with his gracious and friendly manners he was  also a true gentleman. We have lost a valuable leader of our profession.
~ Golnar Simpson

My condolences to Mary Anne, David's family, close friends and close colleagues. I only spent two occasions with David, one at my home for the first meeting of the Greater Washington/Baltimore chapter of the then National Committee on Psychoanalysis. David's presence along with Bill Meyer's provided gravitas, a firming foundation. Later David presented one of the early Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work ethics conferences.  He and Mary Anne dined with our committee afterwards and I observed the sweetness of caring between two gentle brilliant souls. In the back of my mind I have since carried the conviction that should I ever have a complicated ethical question, 'tis David to whom I would turn; I trust David, his wisdom, his clarity of focus and fine judgment, his solid professional grounding, his integrity.  I'm off balance…what a loss!!! David is/ was one of a kind, irreplaceable. I am so fortunate to have had him in my clinical social work community.
~ Audrey Thayer Walker

I too share in the grief that all of you have expressed. I had the privilege of working on the Ethics Committee that David chaired for the then NFSCSW (in the mid-90s), then Clinical Social Work Federation now Association. David was, as many have noted a brilliant theoretician, clinician, and ethicist. While the current code of ethics for the CSWA is in need of revisions, the fact that it has held up so well for so long is a testament to David's understanding of the essence of ethical behavior. I will forever carry his philosophy of ethics with me.
My best to all that knew him more closely than I,
~ Keith Myers

I'm dismayed to hear of David's passing. Through the years he has been a wise, intelligent, and eloquent advocate for the highest ethical standards of our profession. I was privileged to work with him back in the 80's when we first began a series of updates to what was then the National Federation of Societies for Clinical Social Work's code of ethics. Since then he has been involved in virtually every modernization of our ethics code to the one currently in use by the Clinical Social Work Association and AAPCSW. Many times he has advised us on ethical issues via the AAPCSW listserve. He was also invariably kind and gracious to those who worked with him or consulted him. This is a big loss for clinical social work. Please convey my deepest sympathy to Mary Anne, and condolences to all of you who knew him.
~ Betsy Horton

I am awed by the love and admiration that has poured out for David Phillips, and I am among the admirers, and among those who will experience and feel his loss. I have thought of David as a partner  for as long as I have been a part of the clinical social work psychoanalytic world -- now a very long time. He was an internal good object -- always ready to help me, in my mind's eye, and always going to arrive with the best ethical and correct information. When he set forth to provide an issue for Clinical Social Work on Psychoanalysis and Social Work,  and asked me to write an article about the Blancks, and Ego Psychology, I was again awed. He helped underscore some major concepts in that paper. How wonderful that he, as well as others could find the bridges of the two fields. I asked Diana Siskind to help me with that paper; it was a sad time; my husband Niel died in the middle of the writing. How grateful I was to Diana who stepped up to the plate, and how grateful I am to David for putting that Issue  together. It is a really wonderful issue. I will mourn his loss, and I feel sad. I will miss seeing him at meetings. I think of us at AAPCSW as a community -- a family of  sorts; and for  those of us who knew him we are in mourning. Much Love to all,
~ Patsy Turrini

The outpouring of feelings to David's sudden death is a testament to the powerful impact he's  had on the psychoanalytic clinical social work community -- his leadership including his role as past president of AAPCSW and his expertise on professional ethics. As we hear of his early involvement to protect clinical social work and psychoanalysis, in more recent years he reached  many of us through our list serve, especially on questions related to ethics. We have all gained so much from David's contributions to the field, his knowledge and writings. Sadly, we have lost an incredibly gifted person and professional. He will be missed.
~ Penny Rosen

I want to join Penny in recognizing David's enormous impact on our profession and would like to add his influence as a role model for those of us who needed social workers to look up to during our training. He had been my supervisor at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, my mentor and later my friend. Even though I had less personal contact with him as time went on,  I always knew he would be there for me when I needed him. I will truly miss him too.

~ Denise Zalman

From Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, as a colleague, friend, and member of the AAPCSW, I'm sending my heartfelt condolences on the sudden passing of the illustrious Professor David Phillips. I remember my first contact with the NMCOP, 07/28/2001, David was the past president, Bill Meyer the current president, and Barbara Berger, the president-elect. I and other Brazilian social workers were thrilled with the receptivity from members of the NMCOP (currently AAPCSW) for us and especially the respect and sensitivity to our situation - clinical social workers “excommunicated” by our Brazilian Federal Council of Social Work, an organization that determines our steps and has a strong prejudice against clinical social work. I met the wise man and expert David Phillips in 2007 at the Chicago Conference. He received me with distinction, generosity, and spoke about the importance of the clinical social work in the life of people. I regret from the bottom of my heart for this irreparable loss to the world of clinical social work, and to his family, which I am sympathetic to in this deep pain.  (I apologize for my English.) Peace to all.
~ Sonia G. M. Seixas

Incredibly sad. What a loss for all.
~ Janice R. Gagerman

I, too, want to express my sadness and shock at David Phillip's passing. I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with him last year about the many ethical issues that we face in our work. I had already admired him from the many posts that he put on our list serve, but I came away from the conversation with an elevated sense of his integrity and generosity. It was one of those experiences that stayed with me, and was greater than the sum of its parts. As I think of him now, I realize that although I never met him, who he was has been important to my professional identity. With condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,
~ Debby Kuppersmith

David embodied for me, the essence of Psychoanalytic Social Work values, ethics, thoughtfulness, and generosity of spirit. He was inspirational for me, and he will be very missed.
~ Lou Pansulla

I am saddened to hear of David’s passing. He was a strong pillar of our AAPCSW community and his loss is greatly felt. For the time I worked with him, I knew David to be a vital advocate of the Society, contributing his time and energy to help build and strengthen it. My sincere sympathy to his family.
~ Richard J Karpe

So many of us are affected and shocked by his loss.  He was a support to close members of my family and his clarity of thinking about ethics and his generosity benefited all of us in the field.
~ Simon Feuerman

David’s wisdom and invaluable clarity re: ethical issues was unique. He will be sorely missed. My condolences to Mary Anne.
~ Sylvia Teitelbaum

I want to express my deepest sympathy and sorrow to everyone who knew and loved David. He was a guiding light for all of us for decades. His knowledge and experience were invaluable to us in NJ when we established the NJ Society for Clinical Social Work. You could always count on David for ethical, legal, and historical information when we needed it. David and his leadership are a great loss.
~ Judy Logue

As someone who had met David Phillips on only one occasion, I want to add my feelings of sadness. Through the years I found myself, even when I didn't think I had any time, reading whatever I saw that was written by him. I found his opinions to always be considered, wise, and able to support his opinions with a substantive “argument.” I will greatly miss his wise counsel; I can only try to imagine what his death must mean to those who actually knew and interacted with him.
~ Aleda Richter-West

Never having met David myself, I saw the qualities described by others in his writings, and feel that our profession has lost a giant, as professional and person! Condolences to David's family and to all those colleagues who had the honor of knowing him personally.
~ Inge Oppenheimer

Thank you all for your messages of support at this difficult time. David held himself to very high standards of ethical and moral behavior. He had a great deal of personal integrity.  As a husband, he was loyal and trustworthy. In addition, he was incredibly kind, generous and giving.  We were married for 45 years and had what we thought was an unusually happy marriage.  We spoiled each other rotten and we felt so lucky to have each other in our lives.  Thankfully, we told this to each often. Despite the suddenness of his death, nothing was left unsaid or unresolved between us.
~ Mary Anne Phillips

Although I did not know David, I was very touched by Mary Anne Phillips words about her husband and life partner. In reading all the wonderful postings about all that he gave to AAPCSW and beyond, I am glad to know he was so dearly loved, lovingly spoiled rotten, and left this life a contented man. My condolences.
~ Elizabeth Corpt

I too felt stunned and very sad to receive the news of David Phillips’ sudden death. I missed seeing him in Durham at the AAPCSW conference because it’s always special to see him again after knowing him over many years since Clinical Social Work Federation board meeting days-- when he served as ethics chair and I as committee on law chair and we shared stimulating discussions about ethical decision-making. I don’t know whether I just missed seeing him in Durham or whether he actually was not there. In any case, his death is a premature, sad loss of a remarkably thoughtful clinician, professional leader, and scholar in our clinical social work profession. I join others in sending condolences and appreciation to Mary Anne for so kindly sharing her thoughts on her and David’s long and fulfilling marriage. I recall the pride and love for Mary Anne on David’s face when he introduced her to me a few years ago at one of the AAPCSW conference dinners. And I appreciate reading others’ respectful, fond memories of David.
~ Ellen T. Luepker

When I accepted my Lifetime Achievement Award in Durham, NC this past March at the AAPCSW conference, I publicly thanked David Phillips for his wholehearted, unwavering support, his caring and his wise council. I still remain shocked and saddened for myself and for our social work and psychoanalytic community. Such a loss. I met David when the National Study Group began and we served together on a subcommittee on standards which wrote a position paper on the Need for the Development of Professional Standards in Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy which was adopted by the NMCOP. We worked on the Consortium and attended federation meetings. We wrote a paper and presented it at the NFSCSW, Committee on Psychoanalysis and other places called “Multiple Perspectives in Psychoanalysis: A Case example.” Throughout the many years, he was always there as a mentor, colleague and friend.  David made so many contributions to our field of social work psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, particularly on ethics, issues of insurance and confidentiality etc. His leadership will continue on. Our community will miss him and I will miss him. My thoughts are with Mary Anne, his family, friends and clients.
~ Judy Ann Kaplan

I was deeply saddened to learn about the death of Dr. David Philips, a gifted clinician, ethicist, scholar, and teacher. I was privileged to know him for 35 years as his student, fellow AAPCSW member, and colleague. In later years, he was a frequent contributor to the Clinical Social Work Journal, and served as a guest editor for a special issue on Clinical Social Work and Psychoanalysis, and most recently as co-author with Laura Groshong on confidentiality and cybertechnology (published online now & in the June 2015 special issue). While this is likely his last written piece, it is only a tiny part of his multifaceted legacy. He was a tireless advocate for psychoanalytic social work, always willing to assume leadership positions in professional organizations and to help colleagues struggling with legal and ethical concerns. David has consistently served as a beacon for ethical social work practice and he will be sorely missed by all those whose lives he has touched, myself included.
~ Carol Tosone