Lucy Estrin, 90

Miami psychotherapist Lucy Estrin, teacher of Parent Effectiveness Training, dies at 90

Miami-based psychotherapist Lucy Estrin.
Miami-based psychotherapist Lucy Estrin.
Courtesy Eric Estrin

Lucy Estrin spoke about “Grandparenting in the ’90s.” She counseled families on how to deal with kids’ questions during wartime. She gave advice on how loving couples can face the dreaded pre-nup without killing the honeymoon before it happens.

“The romance is definitely, inexorably tampered with,” she warned in a 1984 Miami Herald article on prenuptial agreements.

Estrin was a Miami-based psychotherapist who had a private practice in Coral Gables for decades. Estrin died Sunday at age 90 of a sudden heart attack in Maitland near Orlando, her son Eric Estrin, said. She had moved a decade ago to be closer to her eldest son, Mark, and his family but would occasionally serve some clients with long-distance phone chats and visits.

“People were just drawn to her and opened up to her and would feel comfortable talking about things,” said Eric Estrin, a writer and editor who wrote episodes of television dramas like Miami Vice in the 1980s and for publications including Miami Magazine and freelance for the Miami Herald.

Eric paged through some of his mom’s scrapbooks and was amazed to find so many letters from clients. “Therapists do their job and people don’t necessarily write them letters,” he said. “She got a ton of communications. I saw it growing up the way she touched people. It was overwhelming at times.”

Estrin, born in Brooklyn in 1923, was widowed young, at age 35, when her husband, Robert, died. She raised their boys, Mark and Eric, in Brooklyn, then Nashville, where she earned her master’s in social work at the University of Tennessee.

Drawn to civic activism, Estrin and her older sister May staged sit-ins to help desegregate Nashville’s lunch counters in the early 1960s.

A Miami Beach vacation in 1965, at the Deauville Hotel, proved permanent. She worked with the Children’s Home Society as an adoption worker. She also worked at the Children’s Psychiatric Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital and taught at Barry College and the University of Miami.

Estrin’s profile grew when, in 1970, she was a pioneer in Florida by teaching Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.), a course developed by California clinical psychologist Thomas Gordon. She maintained her own practice in Coral Gables, where she lived with her sister May.

“Mom was very strong, she knew how to move forward,” Eric, 60, said. “She had a light that guided her,” son Mark, 67, added, noting that she maintained a strong identification with her Jewish faith.

A 1974 Miami Magazine feature took its title from a client’s quote: “The Good Lord Sent Me to Lucy Estrin.”

“People would open up to her because they sensed she was a good person,” Eric said. “She had good karma. She lived her life the right way and she loved people and cared about people and was an open book that way.”

Besides her sons, Estrin is survived by five grandchildren. Funeral services will be Wednesday at Ohev Shalom Cemetery in Orlando.

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