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Our Founder

Dr. Nicholas A. Cummings

July 25, 1924 – June 8, 2020

Trailblazer, visionary and scholar who forged a path for the modern practice of psychology.

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During a lifetime dedicated to psychology, Dr. Nicholas Cummings led groundbreaking research into remarkable therapeutic models, established new ways to practice and challenged long-held assumptions to discover newfound truths. We invite you to learn more about his fascinating life and lasting legacy.

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Those whom we venerate have strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, triumphs and failures and very much a human side — just like the rest of us.

Dr. Nicholas Cummings

Founder

Behavioral Health
Behavioral Health

Humble Beginnings

Born Nicholas Cominos in Salinas, California, young Nick was surrounded by a loving, hardworking immigrant family. He grew up immersed in his Greek family’s language, cultural heritage and ambitions. The sudden death of his father when Nick was just four years old, followed soon after by the hardships of the Great Depression, changed the path of Nick’s life. Through these and other events, Nick learned early on how to persevere through crisis and overcome adversity. Later in college, Nick met and married Dorothy, and together created a family and forged a partnership that sustained them for more than six decades.

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Nick has served as a lightning rod for change and innovation...his story helps us better understand the evolution of modern psychotherapy, as well as glimpse its future.

Carol Shaw Austad

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The War Years

Nicholas Cummings’ interest in behavioral health began during World War II, at a time when psychology as a professional practice had only just begun. Building on the premedical degree he earned before being drafted into the Army at the age of 18, he became fascinated with the psychology of human behavior. He examined people’s emotional responses to the unprecedented horrors of modern warfare and studied the psychological interventions being researched in the field. His fiercely intelligent, independent and determined nature took hold during these formative years.

“My father is more than part of psychology’s history. He was one of the major leaders who anticipated every phase of the rise of psychotherapy in America, as well as its struggles.”

Dr. Janet L. Cummings

President, Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health

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Innovative Spirit

After the war, Nicholas Cummings became a pioneer in the young field of professional psychology. He tirelessly pursued undergraduate, doctoral and postgraduate study that met his exacting standards — no easy task during an era when such training was often lacking. To establish the legitimacy of practitioners in the nascent field, he worked with colleagues to found professional psychological associations. In 1958, Dr. Cummings became Kaiser Permanente’s Chief of Mental Health, a unique opportunity to deliver psychotherapy in a primary care setting. Under his leadership, Kaiser Permanente entered the psychology vanguard, eliminating the psychoanalytic couches and other established yet counterproductive practices, and making treatment more evidence-based, effective and human.

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“Aιώνια η μνήμη.”

A Greek expression said when someone passes away that means, “May their memory be eternal.”

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Determined Maverick

Dr. Cummings realized psychological healthcare needed a revolution — and he was a talented agitator for change. He advanced professional psychology’s credibility and power as president of the American Psychological Association. As founding president of the California School of Professional Psychology, he ushered in a new movement in the training of psychologists. He also launched other influential organizations, including the National Academies of Practice and the National Council of Professional Schools of Psychology. At an age when other people slow down and retire, he founded American Biodyne, the nation’s first and only psychology-driven managed behavioral health organization. In the last decade of his life, he founded the Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies, which today provides unique doctoral training in behavioral health. And, he and his family established the Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health to carry on his work.