Alexandre Vaz talks with Dr. Gross about a lifetime in psychotherapy.


Zoltan Gross was born in Kosice, Czechoslovakia, of Hungarian parents.  His family emigrated to New York when he was one year old, and lived in Brooklyn until Zoltan was seven. At that time the Grosses moved to Los Angeles, where Zoltan has remained ever since – in heart if not always in body.  He enlisted in the Army Air Corp during WW II, and at the end of the war, returned to UCLA where he earned his doctorate and fell in love with psychotherapy.  His dissertation was a study of the psychological deficit caused by the lobotomy operation, then still in relatively common practice.

Dr. Gross has been practicing long-term intensive psychotherapy with adults since 1954. He has consulted and taught extensively, including many years as an assistant clinical professor at UCLA Medical School, and served as director of research for two hospitals and clinical director at a mental health center. Now in his 90s, he has not only implemented his innovative brain-based theory of personality in his own practice, but continues to train other psychotherapists in its aspects and implementation.


  • PhD in Clinical Psychology, UCLA 1952

  • Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, ABPP 1957

  • Meritorious Service Award, American Board of Professional Psychology 1992

  • Fellow, American Board of Clinical Psychology 1994

In His Own Words

From the beginning of my psychotherapeutic training, I was confronted with the mysteries of therapeutic work.  Being a disbeliever of magic, I felt compelled to make sense out of what I was doing with my clients.  None of the existing theories gave me much comfort.  In the early years of my work, psychoanalysis both supported and confounded me.  Eventually, my realizations about the duality of dyadic dialogue gave me hope for a better understanding of psychotherapy and encouraged me to explore the nature of the ways people spoke to one another.  It took many years to put it into the form of this book.  Having made enough sense of the work of psychotherapy to escape my confusion, I feel finished with it.  I can comfortably close this book and see the vast amount of work that lies ahead on which I will not be able to work.   

With the completion of this book comes an opening of the door to a much larger issue which awaits future generations of clinicians and research workers.  I am calling attention to the social necessity of increasing the emotional intelligence, not only of psychotherapists, but of infants and children emerging from early childhood to adulthood. 

Helping a person become emotionally intelligent is another way of saying they would no longer suffer painful confusions about who they are, or be subject to suicidal depressions, or experience heart-rending anxieties.  With these talents, they are better able to chart the course of their lives and to stay on an even keel. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we made it a social priority to begin helping our children, from infancy, to become emotionally brilliant persons?  Think of the economic savings we could have in our mental health programs, addiction programs, and jail systems if we had generations of emotionally intelligent people.

We are on the threshold of achieving these goals.  More and more programs explore ways of helping psychotherapists become emotionally skillful.  When therapists are able to manage their own emotional skills, they are better able to help their clients break age-inappropriate emotional habits and help them create new, effective, age-appropriate ones.

There is an increasing recognition of the benefits of pre-school education where children are helped to become more intelligent, better students.  There are even early education schools that enroll, not only two-year-old children, but the children’s families.  This enables parents to learn and share emotional skills that enrich the lives of themselves and their children. 

This is a huge agenda for the future to meet the demands of the technological revolution in which we are all engaged.  I have always been accused of wearing rose colored glasses.  But when I look through the lens of the evolutionary development of Homo Sapiens, I can see a hopeful future for mankind.


February 2018