After growing up in a loving home, Emily Visher attended Wellesley College and graduated with a chemistry degree in 1940. Later, she attained a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in psychology. After her graduation from Berkeley, she got divorced from her first husband with whom she had four children.
She then married John Visher, a fellow psychiatrist, who also had four children from his previous marriage. Together, they worked to create the same kind of loving atmosphere that Emily had grown up in, but found that it was difficult, even with their combined backgrounds in psychology. Based on their own experiences, John and Emily decided to co-found the Stepfamily Association for America, Inc., a non-profit educational organization which provides information and support to families with a stepparent role. Emily served as both president and director of this organization. She and John traveled extensively, preparing lectures and workshops.
In 1991, Emily was awarded the Virginia Satir Award for Outstanding Contributions to Stepfamilies and, in 1993, the Distinguished Professional Contribution to Family Therapy Award by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
Emily died in September of 2001, with her husband, children and stepchildren by her side. She is remembered by the American Family Therapy Academy, as having “inspired other researchers and clinicians to enlarge the discourse” around stepfamilies and as having “normalized what stepfamilies would go through so that people didn’t internalize the inevitable breakdowns as their fault.” Throughout her life, Emily was dedicated to Wellesley College, serving terms as her class vice president, president of the West Bay Wellesley Club and president of the Northern California Wellesley Club.
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