Dr. Allen Sussman: Pioneer in the Deaf Mental Health Field

It is with sadness that Deaf Counseling Center bids adieu to Dr.  Allen Sussman, one of the very first licensed Deaf psychologists, a remarkable pioneer who paved the way for future generations of Deaf mental health professionals. Dr. Sussman died on January 8, 2016.

Dr. Sussman, who received his doctorate in clinical psychology from New York University in 1973, was a strong advocate for accessible mental health services for Deaf people.

He was the most outspoken professor during his many years in the Department of Counseling at Gallaudet University. More than a few of Deaf Counseling Center’s therapists had the privilege of sitting in Dr. Sussman’s graduate-level classes.  He was the professor students  could rely on to  deliver Deaf-centered lectures and challenge any audist comments that unwitting students might make. He took a genuine interest in students’ learning and was always ready to share fascinating case studies from his years of private practice work. To students who looked up to his wisdom and experience, his recounting of how he interacted with the patient who reported a head full of buzzing grasshoppers made for a captivating and never-to-be-forgotten learning experience.

In the mid-1980’s, Dr. Sussman, as Dean of Students at Gallaudet University, affirmed the right of lesbian, gay and bisexual students to establish a club under the auspices of the student body government. Despite loud opposition from the majority of heterosexual students, he spoke up in support of the club, a humanizing presence during a difficult time on campus for many LGBT students.

For us at Deaf Counseling Center, Dr. Sussman was the professor who inspired and encouraged us to establish our own private practice. He believed in us.

In our hearts and in our work, Dr. Sussman’s legacy will live on.

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