Erika Sarah Schmidt passed away suddenly on December 28, 2022, after suffering a brain hemorrhage the previous day. She was 73.
Erika had retired just three months earlier as the Director of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute, an elected position she held for nine years. There she blazed a trail of firsts: the first woman, social worker, child psychoanalyst, and non-physician to serve as Director in the Institute’s eight-decade history. While at CPI, she expanded sliding-scale clinical services, modernized the curriculum, and introduced a highly successful distance-learning component to train psychoanalysts worldwide (even teaching her children to use Zoom all the way back in 2017). Erika was, in the words of one colleague, a “combination of visionary and steam engine.” She was a similarly committed educator, evidenced by her 35 years of teaching and two dozen publications on child development, child analysis, and the history of psychoanalysis. With particular concern for the mental health of children, she contributed to a variety of child and adolescent initiatives, including a program providing group therapy to elementary school students exposed to violence and another providing psychotherapy to youth in foster care.
Born in Manhattan to Dorothy and Lester Karg, an interior designer and an engineer, Erika was raised in the distinctive Village Creek community in Norwalk, Connecticut. A Hyde Parker for more than 47 years, she first moved to the Midwest to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Northwestern University. After earning a Master of Social Work degree from Simmons College in Boston, she returned to Chicago to begin her social work career, first at the Juvenile Protective Association and later at the Institute for Clinical Social Work. She also earned a Master of Arts in the Humanities from the University of Chicago as well as three Certificates in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis from CPI, and she maintained a patient-centered private practice throughout her long career.
Erika was always in the middle of at least a few books, including some for her book club of 37 years, and at least a few online Scrabble games with a roster of friends and relatives. While endeared to routine—whether Saturday morning at the 61st Street Farmers Market or a bowl of ice cream for dessert—she was also eminently curious and was a regular theater goer, museum visitor, and world traveler.
Erika was preceded in death by her parents and her sister, Elissa. Missing her greatly are her children Jeremy and Emily (Oliver), her sister Nancy (Bruce), and numerous family, friends, and colleagues.
Contributions in her memory may be made to the Psychotherapy Action Network (psian.org/donate) and The Endowed Child Services Fund at the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute (tinyurl.com/ECSF-Donate, please select the fund name at the bottom of the form). A memorial is being planned for later this year.
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