Ruth Cohn

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Ruth Charlotte Cohn (born August 27, 1912 in Berlin ; † January 30, 2010 in Düsseldorf ) was the founder of Topic-Centered Interaction (TZI) and one of the most influential representatives of humanistic and psychodynamic psychology.

Live and act

Ruth C. Cohn was born as the second child of the assimilated Jewish Hirschfeld family and grew up in a strict, but well-sheltered, middle-class family. Her father was a banker, her mother came from a merchant family in Mainz . In 1931/1932 she studied economics and psychology at the University of Heidelberg and the Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin. After the " seizure " of the Nazis in 1933 and after oppressive and frightening experience with this system they fled from Berlin to Zurich , where she Psychology studied and by Medard Boss to one of the Swiss Society for Psychoanalysis recognized psychoanalyst was formed. In addition, she studied pedagogy, theology, literature and philosophy at the University of Zurich .

In 1941 she emigrated to the USA . Here, in 1941 and 1942, she first completed training in Early Childhood Progressive Education at the Bankstreet School (later College) in New York City and, at the same time, conducted psychotherapeutic studies from 1941 to 1944, in particular on the work of Harry Stack Sullivan at the William Alanson White Institute in New York and Columbia University , where she graduated with a master's degree (MA) and a degree in psychology.

She then ran a private psychotherapeutic practice in New York City and, not least through training in group therapy with pioneers such as Asya Kadis , Sandy Flowermann and Alexander Wolf, increasingly moved away from classic psychoanalysis towards experience therapy . In the meantime, Cohn was also involved in setting up the NPAP (National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis) and worked for the first time in commercial companies with TZI in the early 1960s . From 1965 to 1966 she did additional training in gestalt therapy with Fritz Perls and founded the Workshop Institute for Living-Learning (WILL) in New York in 1966 and in Switzerland in 1972, the Institute for Training, Research and Practice of TZI (Theme Centered Interaction , TCI).

From Psychoanalysis to Topic-Centered Interaction was the title of her first book and at the same time the title of her professional life's work. With the TZI, she had created a scientifically based set of rules and a theoretically founded concept that was supposed to help put derailed discussions back on track.

In 1974 she returned to Europe and lived in Hasliberg -Goldern ( Switzerland ) until 2002 , where she ran an independent practice and worked as a teacher for TCI and until 1998 as a consultant for the staff at the Ecole d'Humanité in Hasliberg- Goldern was active. It was here that her autobiographical book Lived History of Psychotherapy was written , on which her late colleague Alfred Farau (1904–1972) had contributed.

She then lived in Düsseldorf until her death and was buried on February 6, 2010 in Langenfeld near Düsseldorf. A memorial plaque was unveiled on August 27, 2012 at Mommsenstrasse 55 (Berlin-Charlottenburg) on ​​her 100th birthday. Ruth Cohn lived in this house until 1933.

Teaching activities of Ruth Cohn




  • ... in the midst of all the stars ... poems. Foreword by Frederick Paulsen. Englewood, New Jersey 1949; 2nd edition: Fisher, New York 1952.
  • From psychoanalysis to topic-centered interaction. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1975; 16th edition. 2009, ISBN 978-3-608-95288-9 .
  • with Alfred Farau : Lived history of psychotherapy (= concepts of the human sciences ). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1984; 2nd, expanded edition. 1999, ISBN 3-608-94178-9 .
  • It's about taking part: Perspectives on personal development in society at the turn of the millennium (= Herder spectrum , volume 4224). Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1989; supplemented new edition 1993, ISBN 3-451-04224-X .
  • Knowing that we count. Poems, poems. Zytglogge, Gümligen 1990, ISBN 3-7296-0355-8 .
  • ed. with Christina Terfurth: Lively teaching and learning. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1993; 2nd edition 1995, ISBN 3-608-95547-X .
  • with Irene Klein: Create large groups with topic-centered interaction. A way to achieve a lively balance between individuals, tasks and groups. Grünewald, Mainz 1993.


  • To give too little is theft, to give too much is murder! (Interview by Otto Herz ). In: regarding: education , Volume 14, 1981, Issue 1, pp. 22-27.
  • Peepholes - On the life story of TZI and Ruth Cohn. In: Gruppendynamik , Volume 25, Issue 4 (December 1994), pp. 345-370.
  • The concept of resistance in theme-centered interaction. From the psychoanalytical concept of resistance to the TCI concept of disorder to the approach of social therapy. In: Hilarion Petzold: Resistance. A contentious concept in psychotherapy. Junfermann, Paderborn 1981, pp. 255-282.
  • with Friedemann Schulz von Thun : We are politicians - we all! Dialogue in: Rüdiger Standhardt, Cornelia Löhmer (eds.): Liberate to action. Sociopolitical perspectives of TCI group work. Matthias Grünewald Verlag, Mainz 1994, pp. 30-62.
  • with Paul Matzdorf: Topic-centered interaction. In: Raymond J. Corsini (Ed.): Handbuch der Psychotherapie. Beltz, Weinheim / Basel 1983.

See also


  • Erika Arndt: Ruth Cohn and her idea of ​​lively learning processes in school. In: Themenzentrierte Interaktion , Volume 16, 2002, Issue 1 (special issue for Ruth Cohn), pp. 50–58.
  • Erica Brühlmann-Jecklin: The possible action. Ruth C. Cohn, conversations and encounters . Zytglogge, Oberhofen 2010, ISBN 978-3-7296-0815-3 .
  • Angelika Rubner: Ruth Cohn - her life and her work. (PDF) In: Themenzentrierte Interaktion , Volume 26, 2012, Issue 1, pp. 9–15.
  • Festschrift for Ruth C. Cohn (= Journal for Humanistic Psychology , Volume 3, Issue 4). German Society for Humanistic Psychology, Eschweiler 1980; therein: Friedemann Schulz von Thun: laudation for Ruth Cohn. On the occasion of the award of an honorary doctorate by the Department of Psychology at the University of Hamburg on November 30, 1979. pp. 7–12, (PDF)
  • Matthias Scharer: Obituary February 2, 2010
  • Cohn, Ruth. In: Lexicon of German-Jewish Authors . Volume 5: Carmo – Donat. Edited by the Bibliographia Judaica archive. Saur, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-598-22685-3 , pp. 238-250.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Friedemann Schulz von Thun : Where am I required? Ruth Cohn developed a humanistic alternative to learning from a distance: the topic-centered interaction. An obituary. (PDF; 5.1 MB) In: Kommunikation & Seminar, issue 2/2010. Junfermann Verlag, April 2010, pp. 34-36 , accessed on August 28, 2014 .
  2. Edith Zundel: The inner compass. Ruth Cohn: Risk and Limits of Experience Therapy . In: Die Zeit , No. 38/1985, pp. 59–60
  3. Well-known psychologist Ruth Cohn has died . In: Berner Zeitung , February 2, 2010, accessed on October 15, 2013.
  4. ^ On the 100th birthday of Ruth Cohn . Wikinews
  5. Integration award . Apple Tree Foundation, accessed on October 30, 2016 .