Norbert A. Wetzel, Th.D. is a New Jersey licensed psychologist (# 35 SI 00263700) and marriage and family therapist with over 40 years of experience working with couples, families, and individuals. Together with Hinda Winawer he established Princeton Family Institute in 1982.
Norbert is a native of Germany, who experienced World War II as a child and grew up in Southern Germany. After a study period in the US, he started practicing and teaching Couples and Family Therapy at the Family Institute of the University of Heidelberg Medical School. From 1980 – 1991 he taught Couples and Family Therapy at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. In 2017 he taught a course there again titled "Therapy with People in Marginalized Communities". This course was based on more than 20 years of work and training of counselors at NJ inner-city schools as director of training at The Center for Family, Community, and Social Justice, Inc.
The relational dynamics of couples and families are Norbert’s main therapeutic focus. Even when he works with individuals his practice is aptly called "Relationship-oriented and Context-sensitive Therapy" because people's relationships and life contexts are always part of his therapeutic perspective. He is particularly interested in therapeutic conversations with families whose children, adolescents, or young adults have been labeled as “mentally ill”. In the process of intensive therapy involving the individual and their most important relationships Norbert is also looking for ways how families can use their strengths to support their family member’s journey to emotional and psychological health and well-being. Very often this healing process will fully restore the individual without psychiatric hospitalizations and without the use of any psychiatric drugs.
Norbert’s work is characterized by a strong overall commitment to social justice with special focus on racially constructed diversity and on culture, gender, social class and intergenerational experiences in families. Now and then, he advocates for immigrants through assessments and court appearances or serves as psychological expert in complex custody trials.
In recent years, Norbert is exploring the integration of family systems therapy and medical health care. He has taught seminars in engaging families in primary care and in looking at the «Social Determinants of Health» as part of comprehensive medical care for chronically ill patients. He also became involved in the assessment and reentry process of prison inmates. For people who live too far from Princeton or are unable to travel he is available by phone over a protected and secure video telephone set-up. If time allows, he accepts invitations to present his thoughts on relational dynamics and social networks, and on the epistemological shift necessary for justice oriented healthcare systems.
In his spare time Norbert likes to write, to go on mountain hikes, or ride his bike (in 2012 one week 500 miles from the Shenandoah Valley to Lawrenceville, NJ in support of the Anchor House Ride for Runaways).