HHS Special Issue: Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective

Sarah Marks

The April 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Guest edited by Sarah Marks, this special issue explores “Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective.” Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Psychotherapy in historical perspective,” by Sarah Marks. Abstract:

This article will briefly explore some of the ways in which the past has been used as a means to talk about psychotherapy as a practice and as a profession, its impact on individuals and society, and the ethical debates at stake. It will show how, despite the multiple and competing claims about psychotherapy’s history and its meanings, historians themselves have, to a large degree, not attended to the intellectual and cultural development of many therapeutic approaches. This absence has the potential consequence of implying that therapies have emerged as value-free techniques, outside of a social, economic and political context. The relative neglect of psychotherapy, by contrast with the attention historians have paid to other professions, particularly psychiatry, has also underplayed its societal impact. This article will foreground some of the instances where psychotherapy has become an object of emerging historical interest, including the new research that forms the substance of this special issue of History of the Human Sciences.

“The action of the imagination: Daniel Hack Tuke and late Victorian psycho-therapeutics,” by Sarah Chaney. Abstract:

Histories of dynamic psychotherapy in the late 19th century have focused on practitioners in continental Europe, and interest in psychological therapies within British asylum psychiatry has been largely overlooked. Yet Daniel Hack Tuke (1827–95) is acknowledged as one of the earliest authors to use the term ‘psycho-therapeutics’, including a chapter on the topic in his 1872 volume, Illustrations of the Influence of the Mind upon the Body in Health and Disease. But what did Tuke mean by this concept, and what impact did his ideas have on the practice of asylum psychiatry? At present, there is little consensus on this topic. Through in-depth examination of what psycho-therapeutics meant to Tuke, this article argues that late-19th-century asylum psychiatry cannot be easily separated into somatic and psychological strands. Tuke’s understanding of psycho-therapeutics was extremely broad, encompassing the entire field of medical practice (not only psychiatry). The universal force that he adopted to explain psychological therapies, ‘the Imagination’, was purported to show the power of the mind over the body, implying that techniques like hypnotism and suggestion might have an effect on any kind of symptom or illness. Acknowledging this aspect of Tuke’s work, I conclude, can help us better understand late-19th-century psychiatry – and medicine more generally – by acknowledging the lack of distinction between psychological and somatic in ‘psychological’ therapies.

“‘Subordination, authority, psychotherapy’: Psychotherapy and politics in inter-war Vienna,” by David Freis. Abstract:

This article explores the history of ‘subordination-authority-relation’ (SAR) psychotherapy, a brand of psychotherapy largely forgotten today that was introduced and practised in inter-war Vienna by the psychiatrist Erwin Stransky (1877–1962). I situate ‘SAR’ psychotherapy in the medical, cultural and political context of the inter-war period and argue that – although Stransky’s approach had little impact on historical and present-day debates and reached only a very limited number of patients – it provides a particularly clear example for the political dimensions of psychotherapy. In the early 20th century, the emerging field of psychotherapy was largely dominated by Freudian psychoanalysis and its Adlerian and Jungian offshoots. Psychotherapists’ relations with academic psychiatry were often uneasy, but the psychodynamic schools succeeded in establishing independent institutions for training and treatment. However, as this article shows, the gulf between mainstream psychiatry and psychotherapy was not as wide as many histories of the psy-disciplines in the early 20th century suggest. In inter-war Vienna, where these conflicts raged most fiercely, Stransky’s ‘SAR’ psychotherapy was intended as an academic psychiatrist’s response to the challenge posed by the emerging competitors. Moreover, Stransky also proposed a political alternative to the existing psychotherapeutic schools. Whereas psychoanalysis was a liberal project, and Adlerian individual psychology was closely affiliated with the socialist movement, ‘SAR’ psychotherapy with its focus on authority, subordination and social hierarchy tried to translate a right-wing, authoritarian understanding of society into a treatment for nervous disorders.

“German émigré psychologists in Tel Aviv (1934–58): Max M. Stern and Margarete Braband-Isaac in conflict with Erich Neumann,” by Martin Liebscher. Abstract:

The First International Congress for Analytical Psychology was held in Zurich from 7 to 12 August 1958. On this occasion a small group of Israeli psychologists, represented by Erich Neumann, was accepted as a charter group member of the International Association for Analytical Psychology (IAAP), which marked the foundation of the Israel Association of Analytical Psychology. The history leading up to this official birth date is mainly associated with the efforts of Erich Neumann – and rightly so; however, a number of other therapists, scholars and patients have been forgotten or deleted from this historical narrative, to their detriment. While I was working on the edition of the correspondence between C. G. Jung and Erich Neumann I came across their names, which were often only casually mentioned re some episode, and I have since tried to find out their stories and what happened to them. In this article I discuss the contributions to the development of analytical psychology in British Mandate Palestine, later Israel, of two such figures, Max M. Stern (1895–1982) and Margarete Braband-Isaac (1892–1986). Both had been in personal contact with C. G. Jung and built a bridge between the isolated Jewish therapists in British Mandate Palestine and the Zurich circles. In Tel Aviv they collaborated for a while with Neumann, with whom for different reasons both fell out. The article shows the cause of these controversies with Neumann and tries to find out why those two characters were historically marginalized.

“The science of therapeutic images: Francis Reitman, schizophrenia and postwar psychiatric art at the Maudsley and Netherne Hospitals,” by Connor Cummings. Abstract:

The Netherne Hospital in Surrey is perhaps the most prestigious site in the history of British art therapy, associated with the key figures Edward Adamson and Eric Cunningham Dax, whose pioneering work involved the setting-up of a large studio for psychiatric patients to create expressive paintings. What is little-known, however, is the work of the designated scientist for psychiatric research, Hungarian Jewish émigré Francis Reitman, who was charged with an overall scientific analysis of the artistic products of the studio. Schooled in the biological psychiatric tradition of Ladislas J. Meduna in Budapest prior to his exile to the Maudsley Hospital in 1938 – and committed to treatments such as leucotomy and electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) – Reitman was an unusual candidate for research into the unconscious processes behind art and psychosis. Yet he authored two highly popular and widely reviewed books on his analyses of the abundant artistic output created by patients with schizophrenic diagnoses at the Netherne. In his Psychotic Art (1950) and Insanity, Art and Culture (1954), Reitman compared such schizophrenic images with those produced by artists under the influence of mescaline and examined the artistic output of patients having undergone leucotomy. This article draws on archival materials and Reitman’s original research publications in order to reconstruct his theory of schizophrenic art within the complex context of postwar British psychiatry, negotiating as he did between biologically reductive understandings of Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytic categories, and ultimately synthesizing concepts from both. It also analyses Reitman’s implicit theory of the therapeutic mechanism of art in the treatment of psychiatric patients.

“‘Cruel to be kind?’ Professionalization, politics and the image of the abstinent psychoanalyst, c. 1940–80,” by Ulrich Koch. Abstract:

This article investigates the changing justifications of one of the hallmarks of orthodox psychoanalytic practice, the neutral and abstinent stance of the psychoanalyst, during the middle decades of the 20th century. To call attention to the shifting rationales behind a supposedly cold, detached style of treatment still today associated with psychoanalysis, explanations of the clinical utility of neutrality and abstinence by ‘classical’ psychoanalysts in the United States are contrasted with how intellectuals and cultural critics understood the significance of psychoanalytic abstinence. As early as the 1930s, members of the Frankfurt School discussed the cultural and social implications of psychoanalytic practices. Only in the 1960s and 1970s, however, did psychoanalytic abstinence become a topic within broader intellectual debates about American social character and the burgeoning ‘therapy culture’ in the USA. The shift from professional and epistemological concerns to cultural and political ones is indicative of the changing appreciation of psychoanalysis as a clinical discipline: for psychoanalysts as well as cultural critics, I argue, changing social mores and the professional decline of psychoanalysis infused the image of the abstinent psychoanalyst with nostalgic longing, making it a symbol of resistance against a culture seen to be in decline.

“‘The line between intervention and abuse’ – autism and applied behaviour analysis,” by Patrick Kirkham. Abstract:

This article outlines the emergence of ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) in the mid-20th century, and the current popularity of ABA in the anglophone world. I draw on the work of earlier historians to highlight the role of Ole Ivar Lovaas, the most influential practitioner of ABA. I argue that reception of his initial work was mainly positive, despite concerns regarding its efficacy and use of physical aversives. Lovaas’ work, however, was only cautiously accepted by medical practitioners until he published results in 1987. Many accepted the results as validation of Lovaas’ research, though both his methods and broader understanding of autism had shifted considerably since his early work in the 1960s. The article analyses the controversies surrounding ABA since the early 1990s, considering in particular criticisms made by autistic people in the ‘neurodiversity movement’. As with earlier critics, some condemn the use of painful aversives, exemplified in the campaign against the use of shock therapy at the Judge Rotenberg Center. Unlike earlier, non-autistic critics, however, many in this movement reject the ideological goals of ABA, considering autism a harmless neurological difference rather than a pathology. They argue that eliminating benign autistic behaviour through ABA is impermissible, owing to the individual psychological harm and the wider societal impact. Finally, I compare the claims made by the neurodiversity movement with those made by similar 20th- and 21st-century social movements.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.