Chester Winton (1962)

Emeritus Professor, San Jose State University

I write this upon my retirement after 36 years as a professor of sociology at San Jose State University. I was a graduate student at Berkeley from 1962-67, went to teach at SJSU in 67 and finished my dissertation in 1970. Professors who influenced my professional development included Herbert Blumer, John Clausen, Erving Goffman, Kenneth Bock, Neil Smelser, and Charles Glock. I was part of John Clausen's NIMH training program to study Social Structure & Personality. Henry Lennard came to Berkeley and taught a graduate seminar on "Social Interaction" that had the class going one week to observe family therapy sessions at Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute (part of the UC Med Center in San Francisco) and the alternate week observing family therapy sessions at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto which had what came to be some of the leading family therapists in the United States. We were put in interdisciplinary teams to observe communication patterns in families that featured a schizophrenia child on the premise that pathological communication in families drove children crazy. As a sociologist I was teamed with anthropologists, teachers, psychologists, nurses, social workers and we all observed from our disciplinary perspective and discussed what we saw with the therapist and helped the therapist strategize the next session. This experience launched me into a second career as a state licensed Marriage, Family & Child Therapist.  

While teaching sociology (classes in family, socialization, theory) and training family therapists in a Clinical Psychology graduate program at SJSU, I had a private practice as a family therapist. I have spent many years as an advisor to judges, for two years as an adult probation officer where I recommended sentences to judges in municipal and superior courts in San Mateo County and also as a child custody evaluator for the Santa Clara County Superior Court. I recommended custody and visitation schedules to judges when parents could not agree among themselves on custody issues. I have conducted over 250 child custody evaluations over an eighteen year period; some of these required giving testimony in court as an expert witness. I also do divorce mediation in my private practice, assisting couples write a marital settlement agreement relative to custody and visitation issues involving their children.

I believe that the probation work, custody work, mediation work, and therapy work all arose as a function of learning interviewing skills in the graduate program at Berkeley. My doctoral dissertation had me interviewing eighty legally blind young adults in the San Francisco Bay Area assessing the effects of employment conditions (did they get jobs themselves or through a social worker, did they work in a sheltered workshop for blind people or were they integrated with normally sighted people) on self esteem. Results of the dissertation were published in a monograph published by the American Foundation for the Blind, an organization that invited me to an international invitational conference in New York in 1970 for people they considered the fifty top researchers on blindness in the world. One of the issues I considered in the dissertation is how a person who is congenitally blind comes to cognitively grasp what blindness and sight are, what seeing involves.

Although I taught at SJSU for much of my career, I spent a year as a Visiting Scholar teaching at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1973-74 and was one of few Americans to get into Mainland China during the height of the Cultural Revolution in 1974. I was recruited as a researcher by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and the Tavistock Clinic in London in 1978 to research what in a family therapy session makes a difference in affecting change, versus all that happens that makes no change whatever. Can one tell any therapist what they did that affected change and what they did that had no impact? In1985 I was a Visiting Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where I helped to train family therapists who were going to work on kibbutzim. In 1997 I was part of the first ever United States Delegation of Marriage & Family Therapists to the People's Republic of China where I conferred with divorce mediators in China to compare the the mediation process in China and the United States (resulted in an article for the sociological journal Social Insight) and consulted with judges and attorneys in Shanghai who were trying to get a divorce court off the ground.

I have written four books: Theory & Methods in Sociology (Schenkman/Wiley, 1974), Family Therapy: Etiology & Treatment of Illness (Applied Medical Training, 1981), Frameworks for Studying Families (Dushkin, 1995) and Children As Caregivers: Parental & Parentified Children (Allyn & Bacon).

Dissertation Title: 
The Blind College Student