During the first half of the twentieth century, Adolf Meyer was the most authoritative and influential psychiatrist in the United States. In 1908, when the Johns Hopkins Hospital established the first American university clinic devoted to psychiatry—still a nascent medical specialty at the time—Meyer was selected to oversee the enterprise. The Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic opened in 1913, and Meyer served as psychiatrist-in-chief at the hospital until 1941.
In Pathologist of the Mind, S. D. Lamb explores how Meyer used his powerful position to establish psychiatry as a clinical science that operated like the other academic disciplines at the country’s foremost medical school. In addition to successfully arguing for a scientific and biological approach to mental illness, Meyer held extraordinary sway over state policies regarding the certification of psychiatrists. He also trained hundreds of specialists who ultimately occupied leadership positions and made significant contributions in psychiatry, neurology, experimental psychology, social work, and public health.
Although historians have long recognized Meyer’s authority, his concepts and methods have never before received a systematic historical analysis. His convoluted theory of “psychobiology,” along with his notoriously ineffective attempts to explain it in print, continue to baffle many clinicians. Pathologist of the Mind aims to rediscover Meyerian psychiatry by eavesdropping on Meyer’s informal and private conversations with his patients and colleagues. Weaving together private correspondence and uniquely detailed case histories, Lamb examines Meyer’s efforts to institute a clinical science of psychiatry in the United States—one that harmonized the expectations of scientific medicine with his concept of the person as a biological organism and mental illness as an adaptive failure. The first historian ever granted access to these exceptional medical records, Lamb offers a compelling new perspective on the integral but misunderstood legacy of Adolf Meyer.
The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines
Location: UCL Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, London WC1E 7JG
Monday 16 June: Dr Graham Richards (UCL), Some Psychological Facets of Creationism. The abstract reads,
This presentation explores the psychological aspects of the debates around Creationism. It explores the psychological character of the ‘Argument from Design’ and how this has changed over time from Ray, via Paley to current Intelligent Design theorists, the underlying motivations of Creationists, and the relevance to these debates of Paul Tillich’s discussion of ‘types of anxiety,’ and the history of ‘literal’ biblical fundamentalism. It signposts how psychology has the potential to illuminate the Creationism/Intelligent Design issue in ways which might break what is currently a log-jam of ritualised argument and counter-argument.
Monday 30 June: Dr Sarah Chaney (UCL), ‘A Perversion of Self-feeling': The Emergence of Self-harm in Victorian Asylum Psychiatry. The abstract reads,
This paper explores the emergence of self-harm as a specific category of abnormal individual behaviour in the second half of the 19th century, when ‘self-mutilation’ was defined within asylum psychiatry. I will briefly explain the background of the asylum system and psychiatric profession in Western Europe and the USA in this period, and describe how ‘self- mutilation’ emerged from the interest clinicians had in classifying and defining ‘insane’ behaviour. In particular, this was associated with the widespread publicity given to the increasing decision to regard suicidal acts as evidence of mental illness. While it is often assumed today that Victorian writers made no distinction between suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury, I argue that this was not the case. Psychiatrists in the 19th century frequently claimed that self-mutilation was not carried out for suicidal reasons, although they differed in their method of applying alternative meaning to such acts.
Finally, I will explore why it was that this distinction was made in this particular period, and what led psychiatrists to draw parallels between different kinds of self-inflicted injury to create a universal category. The concept of self-harm today is often used to refer to an act of injury; this application, I argue, emerged from late 19th-century asylum psychiatry. While people had certainly harmed themselves in a variety of ways prior to this period, the late 19th century was the first time these diverse acts – from skin-picking to amputation – became regarded as equivalent behaviours. Combining them under the umbrella term ‘self-mutilation’ prompted the idea that some form of universal meaning might also be discoverable. Self-harm became viewed as an act that had meaning beyond the physical nature of any wounds inflicted or the immediate sensations caused; an act that revealed something of the character of an individual; and, in addition, an act that might help to explain the relationship between individual and society.
“Efficacy and Enlightenment: LSD Psychotherapy and the Drug Amendments of 1962,” by Matthew Oram. The abstract reads,
The decline in therapeutic research with lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in the United States over the course of the 1960s has commonly been attributed to the growing controversy surrounding its recreational use. However, research difficulties played an equal role in LSD psychotherapy’s demise, as they frustrated researchers’ efforts to clearly establish the efficacy of treatment. Once the Kefauver Harris Drug Amendments of 1962 introduced the requirement that proof of efficacy be established through controlled clinical trials before a drug could be approved to market, the value of clinical research became increasingly dependent on the scientific rigor of the trial’s design. LSD psychotherapy’s complex method of utilizing drug effects to catalyze a psychological treatment clashed with the controlled trial methodology on both theoretical and practical levels, making proof of efficacy difficult to obtain. Through a close examination of clinical trials performed after 1962, this article explores how the new emphasis on controlled clinical trials frustrated the progress of LSD psychotherapy research by focusing researchers’ attention on trial design to the detriment of their therapeutic method. This analysis provides a new perspective on the death of LSD psychotherapy and explores the implications of the Drug Amendments of 1962.
“Neuro Psychiatry 1943: The Role of Documentary Film in the Dissemination of Medical Knowledge and Promotion of the U.K. Psychiatric Profession,” by Edgar Jones. The abstract reads,
In 1943, Basil Wright produced a documentary film about the treatment of servicemen and civilians with psychological disorders at Mill Hill Emergency Medical Service Hospital. Funded by the Ministry of Information, Neuro Psychiatry was shot to convince influential clinicians and policy makers in North America that the British had developed expertise in the management of psychiatric casualties. By emphasizing novel and apparently effective interventions and excluding severe or intractable cases from the film, Wright encouraged an optimistic sense of achievement. Filmed at a time when victory was considered an eventual outcome, the picture presented a health service to which all had access without charge. Children and unemployed women, two groups excluded under the 1911 National Insurance Act, had been required to pay for healthcare in the prewar period and were shown receiving free treatment from the Emergency Medical Service. However, the therapeutic optimism presented in the film proved premature. Most U.K. battle casualties arose in the latter half of the conflict and follow-up studies failed to confirm the positive outcome statistics reported in the film. Aubrey Lewis, clinical director of the hospital, criticized research projects conducted at Mill Hill for a lack of rigor. The cinematographic skills of Wright and director Michael Hankinson, together with their reformist agenda, created a clinical presentation that emphasized achievements without acknowledging the limitations not only of the therapies offered by doctors but also the resources available to a nation at war.
“The Cost of War—Then and Now: Commentary on ‘Neuro Psychiatry 1943′,” by Heiner Fangerau. The abstract reads,
In his essay “Neuro Psychiatry 1943: The Role of Documentary Film in the Dissemination of Medical Knowledge and Promotion of the U.K. Psychiatric Profession” Edgar Jones provides a detailed case study of a single movie that was made under unusual wartime conditions. From this case, he builds a general analysis of the interpretation and portrayal of scientific expertise that shaped the production, distribution, and reception of this genre of documentary. The paper provides a fresh perspective for the historical analysis of film documentaries, while remaining highly topical and germane to present-day issues in medicine and health care.
The film that Jones studied was produced in a British hospital where war victims (mostly soldiers) were treated for war neuroses. The filmmakers documented the therapies employed and the apparently successful posttreatment reintroduction of patients into military service and civilian work. They hoped to convince informed audiences, especially those outside Britain in the United States and Canada, about the effectiveness of the British Health Care Service in …
British Psychological Society History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series
Sponsored by the British Psychological Society. Open to the public.
Date: Monday 24th March
Time: 6pm to 7.30pm
Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.
Over the Edge: William Sargant and the Battle for the Mind
In his bestselling book of 1957, Battle for the Mind, the psychiatrist William Sargant revealed to the public the secret techniques that had been used to manipulate humanity, in his words, ‘from the Stone Age to Hitler’. His ideas were adopted by public intellectuals including Robert Graves, Aldous Huxley and Bertrand Russell.
Sargant’s theory was perhaps the most potent manifestation of postwar psychiatry in British popular culture, both drawing on and contributing to its aura of power and expertise. He presented a stark image of a modern world that had outgrown religious consolation but was not yet rational enough to resist the forms of control that were replacing it.
As the old adage goes, there is more than one way to share history. A new project that takes this idea to heart will be made available to the public next week. The Telegraph has reported that Edward Elgar’s “Music for Powick Asylum” will be available from Somm Recordings on March 3rd, 2014 (a book of the written music is already available).
Edward Elgar (1857–1934) was an English composer who, at the age of 22, was conductor of the attendants’ band at the Worcester and County Lunatic Asylum in Powick, England. In this role, he reportedly both coached his fellow musicians and wrote the music they played. As was commonly practiced during the period, the institution’s resident physician, James Sherlock, encouraged these musical performances as part of the Friday night dances that were held for patients.
The music written by Elgar for the Asylum band between 1879 and 1884 was forgotten until it was re-discovered by contemporary British conductor Barry Collett. First re-played for the closing of the institution in 1988, the collection has now been recorded by the Innovation Chamber Ensemble. In describing the music, The Telegraph quotes Collett as saying “Some are quirky, some are foot-tapping and some are full of grace. I love them all.”
Personally, one of the reasons I am so fascinated with this project is the auditory experience that it provides of the historical record. This recording brings to life the “sounds of the asylum” – or at least those that were heard on Friday nights. Dolly MacKinnon, of the University of Queensland, has written about the importance of the historical soundscape of asylums and the Elgar project provides an opportunity for contemporary listeners to glimpse into this auditory world. Needless to say, I have already ordered a copy of the album.
A project is underway to digitize the records of the Central State Hospital in Virginia. Led by King Davis, director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, the project includes some 800,000 documents which span the period between 1870 and 1970. The collection is extraordinarily unique both in terms of its size and its scope. Davis has described that: “This is the most complete set of records on African Americans and mental health in place in the world” (source: Alcalde).
The Central State Hospital – formerly the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane – was opened in 1870. It was the only institution designated for the treatment of African Americans to operate in the state prior to the passing of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Its story is one of only a small handful of “Colored Asylums”: while institutions for the insane would open in every state in the continental US during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the vast majority served a uniquely White demographic.
The impetus for the project was reportedly the deterioration of the Central State Hospital’s records. Although digitization provides a way to preserve this rare archival collection, researchers must face the challenge of maintaining the privacy of the individual patients. To address these concerns the team is developing new Steganoscription software that will recognize the personal information contained within the handwritten documents.
Unfortunately the status of the project has been reported as “at a standstill” due to funding problems. In the meantime, a prototype of the website design can be found here.
Yes, we do listen to your suggestions! Earlier this summer, historian of psychology Ryan Tweney left us a comment in response to our post about our roadtrip to the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St Joseph, Missouri. Tweney said we might also enjoy visiting the “Lunatic House” in Bowling Green, Ohio – so we decided to make one last trip before fall was officially upon us.
The Lunatic House in Bowling Green is actually a part of a collection of buildings that now constitute the Wood County Historical Center and Museum. The primary exhibits are located in the oldest and largest building on the property: the infirmary. The displays take you through the rooms, floors, and wings of the building – beginning first with the history of the County Home itself before growing outwards to include medical history, technological developments, and a history of Ohio.
The site is quite unique, as one of the last remaining county poorhouses in Ohio with a majority of the original structures still standing. The poorhouse system dates to the early nineteenth century in the Unites States. Individual counties provided residential institutions (often as part of farm land) to house those who were unemployed or otherwise did not have the financial means to support themselves. Much like other states, every county in Ohio opened its own poorhouse. By mid-century, the Ohio General Assembly ordered these facilities to take in a wider population including the infirm, the elderly, and the mentally ill – renaming the poorhouses “infirmaries.” They later took on the name “county home” in 1919. Continue reading One More Summer Roadtrip: Wood County Lunatic House→
The Glore Psychiatric Museum is the largest psychiatric-focused museum (that the two of us know of) in North America. It is frequently named a “must see” on lists of unusual museums and was named in the book 1,000 Places to See Before you Die in the USA and Canada. It has likewise been featured in a number of televised documentaries on The Learning Channel, The Discovery Channel, The Discovery Health Channel, PBS, Fox News, The Science Channel, and Superstation WTBS. You can understand our willingness to re-route our drive down to Texas!
Location: UCL Institute of the Americas, Room 105, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN
Speaker: Dr Craig E. Stephenson (AGAP/CPA/CAPT/IAAP)
Seminar Title: ‘The possessions at Loudun: Their significance in the history of the science of mind’
Abstract: This seminar focuses on the seventeenth-century possessions at Loudun, France and presents how the events of this famous case played out at the time and how theorizing about possession and obsession changed over almost four centuries of writing about them. For instance, in his definition of demonism for the Schweizer Lexikon (1945) C.G. Jung referred to the debate about Loudun, as did Gilles de la Tourette, Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, and Jacques Lacan.
Eventually, psychopathology co-opted the word ‘obsession’, stripped of its religious connotation, and left the word ‘possession’ outside medical discourse. Then, in 1992, the American Psychiatric Association attempted to introduce ‘possession’ into its diagnostic manual (DSM-IV) as a mental disorder. Revisiting the history of Loudun provides a means for situating the APA’s recent interest in possession within a medical and intellectual continuum.
Whilst the history of psychiatry has become a well developed field of scholarship, there remain few examinations of psychotherapeutic treatments beyond histories of psychoanalytic approaches. This conference will bring together recent historical research on therapeutic treatments for mental distress and disorder, from the 18th century up to the present. It seeks to explore how such therapies were developed, their institutional and intellectual contexts, and the debates and controversies which may surround their use. ‘Psychotherapeutics’ is defined in its broadest terms, and is intended to include approaches that have been accepted by the medical or state establishments, as well as those practiced outside official institutional settings. Such modes of therapy could include moral treatment, mesmerism, mental healing, ‘talking’ therapies with a wide variety of theoretical bases, from psychoanalysis to cognitive therapy, as well as professional interventions such as those from psychiatric nursing, mental health social work, occupational therapy, play therapy and art therapy.
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
• The philosophical basis of therapies, such as existential, gestalt or behavioural approaches etc.
• Connections between the generation of therapeutic methods and their orginators’ biographies.
• Institutional, economic and political influences on the development of therapeutic practice.
• Psychotherapeutics in the health services.
• The professionalization and regulation of psychotherapeutic practice.
• The relationship between psychotherapeutic methods and other fields of knowledge, e.g. pedagogy, criminology, the neurosciences etc.
• Debates and controversies about psychotherapeutic approaches.
• The development of specific approaches for different age groups.
• Psychotherapeutic concepts in popular culture and the media.
Abstracts of up to 500 words for 20 minute papers should be sent to Sarah Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org. Proposals for themed panels with a maximum of four participants are also welcome. The deadline for individual papers and panel proposals is the 10th June 2013. Participants will be notified whether their papers have been accepted by 20th June 2013.