Suzanne Hall Vogel, a psychotherapist at Harvard University Health Services for 27 years and a field supervisor for Simmons School of Social Work, died on June 19. She was 81.
For more than 50 years, Vogel was actively engaged in the study of Japanese society and culture. She stressed the importance of Japanese psychological concepts for the understanding of individuals of all cultures. In particular, she conducted pathbreaking research on Japanese families and women.
At the time of her death, Vogel had just completed “Japan’s Changing Family: 50 Years of Professional Housewives,” a book on Japan’s “professional housewives” of the postwar era. The book details the life stories of three Japanese housewives whom Vogel knew for 50 years, setting their stories in the context of social changes from 1958 to the present. Drawing on her research experience in Japan as well as her clinical practice, Vogel also made connections between different social contexts in the United States and Japan, and how these social contexts produced distinct psychological symptoms in the two countries. An English-language version of the book is expected to be published next year.
Vogel first conducted research on the Japanese family with her former husband, Ezra Vogel, resulting in the publication of his book “Japan’s New Middle Class” (1963). In 1958-60, the Vogels intensively interviewed six families in a Tokyo suburb, providing a detailed portrait of Japanese family life at the time. Vogel received a Fulbright Scholarship in 1988 to consult with the social work and psychiatry departments of St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo and to conduct research on family life and mental health in Japan. Subsequently, she spent approximately six weeks every year for nearly 20 years supervising social workers at Hasegawa Hospital.
“Sue stressed the importance of understanding the patient — the value of empathy — in cultivating a productive relationship between therapist and patient,” said Misato Nishijima, a former colleague from Hasegawa Hospital who translated Vogel’s book into Japanese. “She was so sincere, open, and cheerful that she naturally brought people into her circle.”
Prior to coming to Harvard, she worked at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center and McLean Hospital. After her retirement from Harvard, she continued a private practice focusing on helping Japanese in the Boston area struggling with both mental health and cultural adjustment, and continued her research and writing on the Japanese family.
“Suzanne was a skilled and compassionate clinician, astute supervisor, and a beloved colleague and friend,” noted Ann Porter, a colleague who was once supervised by Vogel. “Among her fellow professionals, she was both highly respected and genuinely loved. Because of her work in Japan, she brought a multicultural awareness to our service long before multiculturalism became a watchword.”
Vogel graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Texas, Austin, in 1951. She earned a master’s degree in sociology from Northwestern University in 1952 and a master of social work degree from Simmons College in 1954. She received an award for excellence from the Simmons College School of Social Work Alumni Association.
Vogel is survived by her three children — David Vogel of Cambridge, Mass., Steven Vogel of Berkeley, Calif., and Eve Vogel, of Amherst, Mass. — as well as five grandchildren. The family is planning a memorial service for August or September.