Lois Holzman is the director and co-founder of the East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy. As a leading proponent of a cultural approach to human learning and development, she has made the writings of Lev Vygotsky relevant to the fields of psychotherapy, education and organizational and community development. She is well known for her pioneering work in exploring the human capacity to perform and its fundamentality in learning how to learn. She is particularly respected as an activist scholar who builds bridges between university-based and community-based practices, bringing the traditions and innovations of each to the other.
With 25 years of experience in implementing, researching and teaching performance-based psychology, education, health care, youth development, therapy, and organizational and community development, Holzman is a leader of the growing performance movement. The mission of the Institute she directs is the development, in both theory and practice, of a new psychology that understands our ability to perform — to pretend, to play, to improvise, to be who we are and other than who we are — as key to our emotional, social and intellectual growth and well-being. Through the Institute and numerous organizations that use its approach, she is advancing the use and understanding of performance as the engine of human development at any age and social circumstance.
As the organizer of the bi-annual Performing the World conferences, Holzman is helping to build an international cross-disciplinary community of practitioners and scholars who take a performance approach in addressing educational, mental health, health and social policy issues. In addition, she has initiated collaborative cultural / psychological / community-building projects among psychologists, social workers and educators from the United States and other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bosnia, Denmark, Kenya, Serbia and South Africa.
Holzman has helped to develop social therapy, the postmodern group-oriented psychotherapy created by Fred Newman. As Newman’s chief collaborator for over a quarter of a century, she is the leading expert on his work. She has been involved in the development of social therapeutic methodology, not only in psychotherapeutic practice, but also in the contributions it has made to education across the life span, youth development, medicine and healthcare, and organizational development and executive leadership. As an author, lecturer and trainer, she is in the thick of debates among postmodernists, activity theorists, critical psychologists and other philosophically and politically informed scholars on how to transform psychology into a radically humane and empowering practice.
Holzman has written and edited twelve books and over sixty articles on human development and learning, psychology, education and social therapy; among them: Performing Psychology: A Postmodern Culture of the Mind; Schools for Growth: Radical Alternatives to Current Educational Models; Lev Vygotsky: Revolutionary Scientist (with Fred Newman); Psychological Investigations: A Clinician’s Guide to Social Therapy (with Rafael Mendez), Vygotsky at Work and Play, and the Overweight Brain: How Our Obsession with Knowing Keeps Us from Getting Smart Enough to Make a Better World.
Before earning her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Columbia University in 1977, Holzman did graduate work in linguistics at Brown and Columbia Universities. As a postgraduate research fellow at Michael Cole’s Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition at Rockefeller University, she contributed to pioneering work on everyday cognition and the possibility of an ecologically valid psychology. She then joined the faculty of Empire State College, SUNY, where she taught for over a decade in the areas of human development, educational studies and community services. Her diverse career also includes serving as director of the Barbara Taylor School, a Vygotskian-based elementary school, which for twelve years was a living laboratory for the practice of developmental learning.