About Dr. Nicholas Cummings

  • The Story of Dr. Nicholas A. Cummings, Ph.D, Sc.D and the Biodyne Model
  • About Dr. Nicholas A. Cummings & the DBH
  • Why Cummings Graduate Institute was founded
  • Why the Doctor of Behavioral Health DBH Degree Exists


Nicholas A. Cummings, Ph.D., Sc.D. (1924 - 2020)

Dr. Nicholas A. Cummings was a visionary who, for half a century not only was able to foresee the future of professional psychology, but also helped create it. A former president of the American Psychological Association (APA) as well as its Divisions 12 (Clinical Psychology) and 29 (Psychotherapy), he formed a number of national organizations in response to trends. Since organized psychology resisted these inevitable changes, Dr. Cummings blazed the way, expecting others would follow. He launched the professional school movement by founding the four campuses of the California School of Professional Psychology that established clinicians as full-fledged members of the faculty. As chief of mental health for the Kaiser Permanente health system in the 1950s, he wrote and implemented the first prepaid psychotherapy contract in the era when psychotherapy was an exclusion rather than a covered benefit in health insurance. He wrote what is known as the freedom-of-choice legislation that requires insurers to reimburse psychologists along with psychiatrists, and he conducted the medical cost offset research showing that psychological interventions save medical/surgical dollars.

Foreseeing the industrialization of healthcare, and particularly behavioral healthcare, he founded American Biodyne, the nation’s first and only psychology-driven managed behavioral health organization (MBHO), to be emulated so that the profession could own managed behavioral care before it fell into the hands of business interests. For two years he limited enrollment to 500,000 covered lives, but when the professions of psychology and psychiatry ignored the model, he took his foot off the brake, and the number of covered lives soared to 14.5 million in the next 5 years and to 25 million shortly thereafter. Other organizations he founded included the National Academies of Practice (the 150 most distinguished practitioners in each of dentistry, medicine, nursing, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, pediatric medicine, psychology, social work, and veterinary medicine), the National Council of Professional Schools of Psychology (NCSPP), the San Joaquin County Psychological Association, and the American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association (AMBHA). With others he co-founded the California Psychological Association, the San Francisco Bay Area Psychological Association, and the Council for the Advancement of the Psychological Professions and Sciences (CAPPS).

In the early days of the technical revolution, Dr. Nicholas Cummings was invited as the CEO of American Biodyne to attend a luncheon where he would meet innovators and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, including Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Dr. Cummings was inspired by the brilliance of these entrepreneurs, and was struck by a similarity he noticed among the group: a particularly high college dropout rate. The tech giants of Silicon Valley had either enrolled in college and quickly dropped out after learning they knew far more than any of the faculty, or never enrolled at all; choosing instead to spend all of their time inventing the new technologies that would absolutely revolutionize our lives. Dr. Cummings realized that what healthcare needed was a similar revolution, and he saw an opportunity to teach behavioral health providers to disrupt the ineffective, fragmented healthcare system from within. There was only one problem: no university existed that was out-of-the-box enough to create both the curriculum and the environment that would stimulate the kind of innovation that healthcare needed. The choice was clear.

In 2014, Dr. Cummings along with his daughter, Janet L. Cummings, Psy.D, created the Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies to fill the educational gaps for innovative and entrepreneurial healthcare professionals wishing to disrupt healthcare from within or for those looking to launch new ventures. Drs. Cummings designed the DBH program at CGI to address three critical needs behavioral health providers would need to be successful in this aim: medical literacy, efficient and effective delivery of behavioral health interventions in medical settings, and entrepreneurship and innovation in the healthcare marketplace.


In spite of being controversial all of his life, Dr. Nicholas Cummings was the recipient of numerous awards, including psychology’s highest, the APF Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Practice. Dr. Cummings received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, his master’s degree in psychology from Claremont Graduate School, and his doctorate in clinical psychology from Adelphi University. He has been awarded five honorary doctorates for his innovations in such diverse fields as education and the Greek classics. Along with his professional, scientific and educational contributions, he has been feted as the foremost entrepreneur in psychology.

Dr. Cummings was a member of President Kennedy’s Mental Health Task Force and President Carter’s Mental Health Commission. He was an advisor to the Health Economics Branch of the then Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the Senate Subcommittee on Health (Senator Edward Kennedy, Chair), and the Senate Finance Committee (Senator Russell Long, Chair). He has testified before the Congress of the United States 18 times. On behalf of the Health Care Financing Administration, he conducted the 7-year Hawaii Medicaid Project that prompted the federal government to overhaul the way Medicaid was being delivered. Dr. Cummings passed away June 8, 2020 in Reno, Nevada surrounded by the one love of his life, Dorothy Mills Cummings and his family.

Read CGI's dedication to Dr. Nicholas A. Cummings.


Dr. Nicholas Cummings has written over 450 book chapters and journal articles, along with 51 books, and 10 with his daughter, Dr. Janet Cummings.

Belo are two seminal articles by Nicholas Cummings that demonstrate his expertise in healthcare integration and cost savings.

Twenty Years of Kaiser Experience with Psychotherapy and Medical Utilization:Implications for National Health Policy and National Health Insurance

Impact of Managed Care on Employment and Training: A Primer for Survival

The following is a partial list of publications, showing representative publications in chronological order from 1967 through the present.

  • Follette, W.T. & Cummings, N.A. (January-February 1967). Psychiatric services and medical utilization in a prepaid health plan setting I. Medical Care, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 25-35.
  • Cummings, N.A. & Follette, W.T. (January-February 1968). Psychiatric services and medical utilization in a prepaid health plan setting II. Medical Care, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 31-41.
  • Cummings, N.A. (October 1969). The California School of Professional Psychology: One alternative to the extinction of professional psychology. Journal of Clinical Issues in Psychology, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 8-10
  • Cummings, N.A. (September 1977). The anatomy of psychotherapy under national health insurance. American Psychologist, Vol. 32, No. 9, pp. 711-718.
  • Cummings, N.A. (1977). Behavioral health in primary care: Dollars and sense. In N.A. Cummings, J.L. Cummings, & J.N. Johnson (Eds.). Behavioral health in primary care: A guide for clinical integration (pp. 3-21). Madison, CT: Psychosocial Press.
  • Cummings, N.A. (December 1979). Turning bread into stones: Our modern anti-miracle. American Psychologist, Vol. 34, No. 12, pp. 1119-1129.
  • Cummings, N.A. (1991). Arguments for the financial efficacy of psychological services in healthcare settings. In J.J. Sweet, R.G. Rozensky, & S.M. Tovian (Eds.). Handbook of clinical psychology in medical settings (Chapter 8, pp. 113-126). New York, NY: Plenum Publishing Corporation.
  • Cummings, N.A. & Follette, W.T. (1991). Medical cost offset: A reprinting of the seminal research conducted at Kaiser Permanente, 1963-1981. Reno, NV: Context Press. Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health: Healthcare Utilization and Cost Series, Vol. 1
  • Cummings, N.A., Dorken, H., Pallak, M.S., & Henke, C. (1993). Medicaid, managed behavioral health, and implications for public policy: A report of the HCFA-Hawaii Medicaid Project and Other Readings. Reno, NV: Context Press. Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health: Healthcare Utilization and Cost Series, Vol. 2.
  • Cummings, N.A., Dorken, H., & C.J. Henke. (1994) Medical costs, Medicaid, and manage mental healath treatment: The Hawaii Study. Managed Care Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 64-70.
  • Cummings, N.A. (Ed.) (1995). The impact of the Biodyne Model on medical cost offset: A sampling of research projects. Reno, NV: Context Press. Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health: Healthcare Utilization and Cost Series, Vol. 4.
  • Cummings, N., & Sayama, M. (1995). Focused psychotherapy: A casebook of brief, intermittent psychotherapy throughout the life cycle. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel (now Brunner/Routledge, a subsidiary of Taylor and Francis).
  • Cummings, N.A., Pallak, M.S., & Cummings, J.L. (Eds.) (1996). Surviving the demise of solo practice: Mental health practitioners prospering in the era of managed care. Madison, CT: Psychosocial Press (an imprint of International Universities Press).
  • Cummings, N.A., Cummings, J.L., & Johnson, J.N. (Eds.). (1997). Behavioral health in primary care: A guide for clinical integration. Madison, CT: Psychosocial Press (an imprint of International Universities Press).
  • Cummings, N.A. (Summer 2000). The next phase in the evolution of behavioral care and its re-empowerment of the practitioner. The Independent Practitioner, Vol. 20, No. 3; Bulletin of he Psychologists in Independent Practice, a Division of the American Psychological Association.
  • Cummings, N.A. & Cummings, J.L. (2000). The essence of psychotherapy: Reinventing the art in the era of data. New York, NY: Academic Press.
  • Cummings, N.A. & Cummings, J.L. (2000). The first session with substance abusers: A step- by-step guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass (now John Wiley).
  • Cummings, N.A. (2001). A new vision of healthcare for America. In N.A. Cummings, H. Dorken, M.S. Pallak, & C.J. Henke (Eds.). Integrated behavioral healthcare: Prospects, issues, and opportunities (Chapter 2). New York, NY: Academic Press.
  • Cummings, N.A., O'Donohue, W., Hayes, S.C., & Follette, V. (Eds.). (2001). Integrated behavioral healthcare: Positioning mental health practice with medical/surgical practice. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  • Cummings, N.A. & Wiggins, J.G. (2001). A collaborative primary care/behavioral health model for the use of psychotropic medication with children and adolescents: The report of a national retrospective study. Issues in Interdisciplinary Care, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 121-128.
  • Wright, R. & Cummings, N. (Eds.). (2001). The practice of psychology: The battle for professionalism. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker & Thiesen.
  • Cummings, N.A., O'Donohue, W.T., & Ferguson, K.E. (2002). The impact of medical cost offset on practice and research: Making it work for you. Reno, NV: Context Press. Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health: Healthcare Utilization and Cost Series, Vol. 5.
  • Cummings, N.A., O'Donohue, W.T., & Ferguson, K.E. (2003). Behavioral health as primary care: Beyond efficacy to effectiveness. Reno, NV: Context Press. Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health: Utilization and Cost Series, Vol. 6.
  • Cummings, N.A., O'Donohue, W.T., Duckworth, M., & Ferguson, K.E. (2004). Early detection and treatment of substance abuse within integrated primary care. Reno, NV: Context Press. Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health: Healthcare Utilization and Cost Series, Vol. 7.
  • Cummings, N.A., O'Donohue, W.T., & Naylor, E.V. (2005). Psychological approaches to chronic disease management. Reno, NV: Context Press. Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health: Healthcare Utilization and Cost Series, Vol. 8.
  • Cummings, N.A. (2005). Resolving the dilemmas in mental healthcare delivery: Access, stigma, fragmentation, conflicting research, politics and more. In N.A. Cummings, W.T. O'Donohue, & M.A. Cucciare (Eds.). Universal healthcare: Readings for mental health professionals. Reno, NV: Context Press. Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health: Healthcare Utilization and Cost Series, Vol. 9.
  • Cummings, N.A., O'Donohue, W.T., & Cucciare, M.A. (2005). Universal healthcare: Readings for mental health professionals. Reno, NV: Context Press. Cummings Foundation for Behavioral Health: Healthcare Utilization and Cost Series, Vol. 9.
  • O'Donohue, W.T., Byrd, M.R., Cummings, N.A., & Henderson, D.A. (Eds.). (2005). Behavioral integrative care: Treatments that work in the primary care setting. New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge (Taylor and Francis Group).
  • Wright, R.H., & Cummings, N.A. (Eds.). (2005). Destructive trends in mental health: The well-intentioned path to harm. New York, NY: Routledge (Taylor and Francis Group).
  • O'Donohue, W.T., Cummings, N.A., Cucciare, M.A., Runyon, C.N., & Cummings, J.L. (Eds.). (2006). Integrated behavioral healthcare: A guide to effective intervention. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books (an imprint of Prometheus Books).
  • O'Donohue, W.T., Cummings, N.A., & Cummings, J.L. (Eds.). (2006). Clinical strateties for becoming a master psychotherapist. San Diego, CA: Academic Press (Elsevier).
  • Cummings, N.A., Cummings, J.L., & O'Donohue, W.T. (2008). We are not a healthcare business: Our inadvertent vow of poverty. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy.
  • Cummings, N.A. & O'Donohue, W.T. (2008). Eleven blunders that cripple psychotherapy in America: A remedial unblundering. New York, NY: Brunner Routledge.
  • O'Donohue, W.T. & Cummings, N.A. (2008). Evidence-based adjunctive treatments. San Diego, CA: Elsevier (an imprint of Academic Press).
  • Cummings, N.A., O'Donohue, W.T., & Cummings, J.L. (Eds.). (2009). Psychology's war on religion. Phoenix, AZ: Zeig, Tucker, and Theisen.
  • Cummings, N.A. & O'Donohue, W.T. (Eds.). (2011). Understanding the behavioral healthcare crisis: The promise of integrated care and diagnostic reform. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Cummings, N.A. & O'Donohue, W.T. (Eds.). (2012). Restoring psychotherapy as the first line intervention in behavioral healthcare. Dryden, NY: Ithaca Press.
  • Walker, L.E., Cummings, D.M. & Cummings, N.A. (Eds.). (2012). Our broken family court system. Dryden, NY: Ithaca Press.
    • Cummings, N.A. & Cummings, J.L. (2013). Refocused psychotherapy as the first line intervention in behavioral health. New York, NY: Routledge)

[Translated into Mandarin, 2014, Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press.]

  • Cummings, N.A. (2016). Psyche's prophet: The selected writings of Nicholas A. Cummings. New York, NY: Routledge (Taylor and Francis Group and World Library of Mental Health).


Nicholas Cummings Ph.D. ’58: Unblundering Psychology Practice