About Dr. Nicholas Cummings


Nicholas A. Cummings, Ph.D., Sc.D.

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

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


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The DBH program has opened many doors of opportunity for me. I currently work with several Primary Care Physicians in a large healthcare system. I love working beside physicians and enjoy the respect I have earned because of my training as a DBH. The Biodyne Model fits well into the fast-paced setting of Primary Care and I am proud to be a DBH.

Dr. Teresa S. Harper, DBH MSW, LCSW July 12, 2016

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