Ilda V. Ficher, 91, of Center City, a clinical psychologist who treated the children of Holocaust survivors and also created one of the first sex therapy clinics in Philadelphia, died Wednesday, Aug. 14.
Dr. Ficher specialized in providing couples and family therapy in Center City for over 40 years. “She loved to work,” said daughter Dora Ficher. “Though she fell two years ago and broke her ribs, she continued to see patients until eight months ago. She loved to see her patients and listen to their stories. That was very important to her.”
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 31, 1928, Dr. Ficher first trained as a psychologist at the University of Buenos Aires. In Argentina, she studied with the psychiatrist Salvador Minuchin, the father of structural family therapy. She later earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at what is now known as Union Institute and University in Cincinnati.
Dr. Ficher and her late husband, Dr. Miguel Ficher, immigrated to the United States with their three daughters in 1961. The family first settled in St. Louis, where she found work at Washington University. The family returned briefly to Buenos Aires, but turmoil during the military dictatorships drove the Fichers to relocate again, this time to the Philadelphia region.
“It was tough, but the situation was so bad in Argentina that we returned,” said Dora Ficher. “She never looked back or regretted coming back here.”
Several years after the Fichers moved to the U.S., her mentor, Minuchin, set up the Philadelphia Child and Family Therapy Training Center in 1965. That allowed Dr. Ficher to continue her work with him.
In the 1970s, Dr. Ficher created one of the first sex therapy clinics in Philadelphia as part of the former Van Hammett Psychiatric Clinic at Hahnemann University, where she also served as director and a professor in the department of mental health sciences, her daughter said. It was there that she also saw Holocaust survivors’ children.
A charter member of the American Family Therapy Academy and the former Eastern Association of Sex Therapy, Dr. Ficher was involved in the training of hundreds of psychiatric residents and psychology students. In the 1980s, she helmed the family and couples therapy concentration for the doctoral psychology program in the department of mental health sciences at Hahnemann, then was lured to Widener University for much of the 1990s, where she pursued similar work, her daughter said.
She was published in numerous journals in the areas of sensation seeking and marital interaction, lesbian couples, and family and couples therapy. She was coeditor of the book Sex and the Life Cycle and lectured frequently in the U.S., Europe, Israel, and South America.
The Fichers found a warm community of fellow Argentinian expats in Philadelphia. She was a longtime resident of Academy House and an active member of the Cosmopolitan Club on Latimer Street.
Dr. Ficher loved to travel. “She did every Viking river cruise she could find,” her daughter said. She also loved politics and relished working for the Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns.
“We all got involved because my parents were so devoted to progressive causes,” her daughter said.
In addition to her daughter, Dr. Ficher is survived by daughters Claudia Beckerman and Tamar Port; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 2011.
A Celebration of Life will be held at noon Sunday, Sept. 8, at West Laurel Hill Cemetery & Funeral Home, 225 Belmont Ave., Bala Cynwyd. Shivah will follow in Dr. Ficher’s residence.