Special Issue: Towards Transcultural Histories of Psychotherapies

The European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling has just released a special issue: “Towards Transcultural Histories of Psychotherapies.” Guest edited by Sonu Shamdasani, the issue includes the following articles:

“Introduction to special issue ‘Towards transcultural histories of psychotherapies’,” Del Loewenthal (Editor-in-Chief). No abstract.

Editorial: “Towards transcultural histories of psychotherapies,” by Sonu Shamdasani (Guest Editor). No abstract.

“Suggestion, persuasion and work: Psychotherapies in communist Europe,” by Sarah Marks. Abstract:

This article traces what recent research and primary sources tell us about psychotherapy in Communist Europe, and how it survived both underground and above the surface. In particular, I will elaborate on the psychotherapeutic techniques that were popular across the different countries and language cultures of the Soviet sphere, with a particular focus upon the Cold War period. This article examines the literature on the mixed fortunes of psychoanalysis and group therapies in the region. More specifically, it focuses upon the therapeutic modalities such as work therapy, suggestion and rational therapy, which gained particular popularity in the Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The latter two approaches had striking similarities with parallel developments in behavioural and cognitive therapies in the West. In part, this was because clinicians on both sides of the ‘iron curtain’ drew upon shared European traditions from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nevertheless, this article argues that in the Soviet sphere, those promoting these approaches appropriated socialist thought as a source of inspiration and justification, or at the very least, as a convenient political shield.

“Manualizing psychotherapy: Aaron T. Beck and the origins of Cognitive Therapy of Depression,” by Rachael I. Rosner. Abstract:

This paper examines the origins of psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck’s 1979 Cognitive Therapy of Depression (CTOD). CTOD was the first psychotherapy manual designed to be used in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). Making psychotherapy amenable to the RCT design had been a ‘holy grail’ for leading American psychotherapy researchers since the late 1960s. Beck’s CTOD – which standardized his treatment so it could be compared with drug treatments in a clinical trial – delivered that holy grail, and ushered in the manualized treatment revolution. Manuals are now a sine qua non in psychotherapy research. In this paper, I explore some of the personal, political, and economic variables that made the idea of a manual irresistible to Beck and to those who first championed him.

“Modernist Pills against Brazilian Alienism (1920–1945),” by Cristiana Facchinetti. Abstract:

Psychoanalysis arrived in Brazil at the turn of the twentieth century and was frequently used as a new tool in the process of conservative modernization. As such, it was used by psychiatrists, eugenicists and hygienists in their projects. But avant-garde Brazilian writers appropriated it in a different manner. They saw psychoanalysis as a new form of cultural therapy that represented the new Brazilian ‘modernity’. The paper deals precisely with this project. With this aim in mind, it analyses several works of the leading authors of the Modernist Movement and their Manifestos, seeking to draw attention to the particular way in which psychoanalysis was appropriated as a psychotherapeutic tool capable of assisting in the creation of an identity for the country. For this analysis, the concept of circulation and of appropriation were chosen as theoretical reference.

“Buddhism, Christianity, and psychotherapy: A three-way conversation in the mid-twentieth century,” by Christopher Harding. Abstract:

This article explores the scope of ‘religion-psy dialogue’ in the mid-twentieth century, via a case study from Japan: Kosawa Heisaku, a Buddhist psychoanalyst based in Tokyo. By putting this case study in brief comparative perspective, with the conversation that took place in 1965 between Paul Tillich and Carl Rogers, the article discusses both the promise and the pitfalls of the modern and contemporary world of ‘religion-psy dialogue’, alongside the means by which specialists in a variety of fields might investigate and hold it to account.

“Inferiority and bereavement: Implicit psychological commitments in the cultural history of Scottish psychotherapy,” by Gavin Miller. Abstract:

The author has argued that psychoanalytic psychotherapy was seen in Scotland as a way to purify Christianity of supernaturalism and moralism, and to propel the faith in a scientifically rational and socially progressive direction. In making this historiographic claim, certain disciplinary protocols are followed, such as the symmetry postulate and a deprecation of reductive psychohistorical explanation. Nonetheless, the contemporary historian of psychotherapy is a psychologized subject whose historical practice rests upon a complex, prereflective background of psychological presuppositions.

“Towards trans-cultural histories of psychotherapies,” by Hans Pols. Abstract:

Psychotherapy is a regulated form of verbal interaction, which necessarily incorporates broader shared cultural assumptions and narrative templates. Like any form of verbal interaction, it is fluid, adaptable and malleable, particularly when it enters new cultural domains. The increasing global penetration of psychotherapeutic techniques calls for an analysis of the changes, modifications, and innovations of its techniques and accompanying theories. This will eventually allow scholars to view European and North American forms of psychotherapy as variations tied to specific locations and cultures. Tracing the trans-national and trans-cultural dissemination of psychotherapeutic theories and techniques allows historians to chart their inherent variability, test limits, and analyse the broader social and political uses of psychotherapy within different national and cultural contexts. In addition to investigating psychotherapy in its various manifestations, historians should continue to inquire about its personal, social and political uses.

“Transcultural histories of psychotherapy,” by Keir Martin. Abstract:

Both proponents of and critics tend to assume psychotherapy’s origin and status as a ‘Western’ practice. The history of the emergence of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are far more complex than this picture allows for. Today as we enter a more multipolar era of world history, the easy identification of psychotherapy with ‘the West’ will become increasingly difficult to sustain, as Bangalore and Shanghai are likely to rival Hampstead and Manhattan as centres of influence for the development of therapeutic practice and theory in the coming decades. Adapting to this new world will necessitate a different conception of the role of ‘culture’ than we have been used to in recent discussions in psychotherapy. Rather than simply seeing ‘culture’ as a factor that needs to be added to discussions to counteract the alleged ethnocentrism of ‘Western’ psychotherapy, we will need to begin to pay more careful attention to the work that is done by appeals to the ‘culture concept’ in different contexts. In particular ‘culture’ can be constructed as an object of evaluation that makes it part of the ‘check-list’ of skills that characterise the reconception of psychotherapy in an era of neoliberal instrumental manualised therapy training and practice.

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.