Eamon O’Sullivan: 20th-century Irish psychiatrist and occupational therapy patron

A forthcoming article in History of Psychiatry, now available online, may interest AHP readers: “Eamon O’Sullivan: 20th-century Irish psychiatrist and occupational therapy patron,” by Judith Pettigrew, Aisling Shalvey, Bríd Dunne, and Katie Robinson. Abstract:

The profession of occupational therapy was formalized in the USA in 1917. Many of its earliest proponents were psychiatrists, yet their role in the development of the profession has received limited attention. This paper addresses this gap by considering one of the earliest Irish psychiatrist patrons of occupational therapy: Dr Eamon O’Sullivan (1897–1966) of Killarney Mental Hospital, Co Kerry, who developed an occupational therapy department in 1934. A textbook written by O’Sullivan reflects core philosophies articulated by occupational therapy’s founders, and these philosophies were evident in practice at his hospital. Some inconsistencies between O’Sullivan’s writings and practice are identified. In the absence of patient testimonies, it is not possible to resolve questions about the potential exploitation of patients through work as therapy.

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.