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David Kantor, (b. 1927) is an American systems psychologist, organizational consultant, and clinical researcher. He is the founder of three research and training institutes and the author of numerous books and articles, including Inside the Family co-authored with William Lehr. His work has made a significant contribution to the fields of family systems and organizational consultation theory and practice.
He has taught and trained thousands of students at institutions including Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine, the Kantor Family Institute, and Northeastern University, and has also been the recipient of multiple grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He is the Founder and Thought Leader of The Kantor Institute.
Beginning in 1956, he was a Lecturer at Harvard University’s Department of Social Relations. Kantor's innovative research methods while at Harvard included creating halfway houses where students lived with and studied patients full-time, and placing healthy students in mental hospitals (disguised as patients) to directly study treatment of patients and the condition of mental hospitals. His work on the negative effects of institutionalizing patients was instrumental in the movement to shift psychological and psychiatric care toward more effective and beneficial treatment methods where appropriate.
After Harvard, Kantor was an Assistant Professor of Clinical psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine from 1965–1975, during which time he also served as first Director of Psychological Research (1966–1969), Director, Center for Training in Family Therapy (1968–1975), and Chief Psychologist (1969–1975) at Boston State Hospital. He also founded the Boston Family Institute in 1967 and the Family Institute of Cambridge in 1974. During this time, David’s research was highlighted on the Chicago Channel 11 WTTW.
In 1980 David founded the Kantor Family Institute, a postgraduate training center for therapists and organizational consultants and served as its Director for twenty years. During this time David expanded his focus on systems theory to include businesses and other organizations, and also developed his “Theory of Theories.” He worked with Monitor Group (then Monitor Company) as a special consultant and project consultant during 1991–1993. He also acted as a research consultant to the Dialogue Project at the Organizational Learning Center of the MIT Sloan School of Management.
In 2001, Kantor joined Monitor Group to develop a new model and theory of leadership to facilitate the evolution of leaders at Monitor and for Monitor’s clients. One of his key developments is the Leadership Model Building (LMB) program utilized by both Monitor’s senior leadership and Monitor’s most important clients. Within Monitor, David was the Head of Monitor Kantor Enterprises (MKE), a business unit whose products help clients develop the necessary organizational leadership and team dynamics capabilities to execute their organizations’ strategies, from 2001 through 2008. Clients have cited MKE’s products and approach as highly influential and essential in helping them make critical decisions and successfully navigate some of their business’s most extreme challenges.
Between 2008 and 2011, Kantor has upgraded all concepts he has developed over decades to new levels of theoretical credibility. This work is captured in the book, Reading the Room: Group Dynamics for Coaches and Leaders, published in 2012 by Jossey-Bass/Wiley. A manuscript in process describing a model of practice is designed as a companion to the theory contained in Reading the Room. At the Kantor Institute, the concepts in the one and the techniques in the other are being put into action in a wide array of programs offered to consultants and therapists for use in their own specialties—consulting, coaching, team building, and various forms of therapy with couples and families.
From these developments, Kantor’s work has taken a special turn. He is ready to test the ability of his concepts both to predict behavior and to quantitatively measure the results of designed interventions. He is currently preparing to put these important claims to empirical test with corporate teams.
Kantor is married to Meredith Winter and is the father of seven children. He lives in Cambridge, MA. While teaching at Harvard College in the 1960s, he owned a bookstand in Harvard Square that was pulled behind a donkey.
- Inside the Family, with William Lehr (1st ed.: Jossey-Bass, 1975)
- My Lover, My Self (Riverhead Trade, 2000)
- Love by Labor Lost
- Alive in Time
- Reading the Room: Group Dynamics for Coaches and Leaders (Jossey-Bass, 2012)
- “Managing Structural Traps, A Critical Element in Leading Successful Organization Change,” with Steven Ober, Innovation Associates, Inc.
- “Behavioral Archetypes,” Innovation Associates, Inc. v. 11.96, 1996
- "The Systems Thinker," with Joel Yanowitz and Steven Ober, 6:5 (June/July 1995):
- “Reframing Team Relationship:, How the Principles of “Structural Dynamics" Can Help Teams Come to Terms with Their Dark Side”, with Nancy Heaton Lonstein, in Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, Doubleday, 1994.
- “Principles for Human Systems Consulting and a Framework for Human Systems Consulting,” with Steven Ober, 1988
- “Couples Therapy, Crisis Induction, and Change,” pp. 21–71, Casebook of Marital Therapy, Guilford Press, 1985.
- “The Structural-Analytic Approach to the Treatment of Family Developmental Crisis,” Development Theory and Structural Analysis, pp. 12–34, Clinical Implications of the Family Life Cycle, Aspen, 1983.
- “Critical Identity Image: A Concept Linking Individual, Couple, and Family Development,” pp. 137–167, Family Therapy: Combining Psychodynamic and Family Systems Approaches, Grune & Strattion, 1980.
- “Integrative Shifts for the Theory and Practice of Family Systems Therapy,” with John H. Neal, in Family Process 24:1, 13-30. 1985