Category Archives: General

Tune in, Turn on: Religious Music and Spiritual Power in the History of Psychedelic Therapy

AHP readers will be interested in a new open-access article in Social History of Medicine: “Tune in, Turn on: Religious Music and Spiritual Power in the History of Psychedelic Therapy,” Stephen Lett, Erika Dyck. Abstract:

Psychedelic-assisted therapy has attracted considerable clinical attention in the past decade for its ability to bring therapeutic benefits to patients in treatment-resistant categories. In contradistinction from other psychopharmaco-therapies, contemporary psychedelic therapists, like their predecessors, paid close attention to the ‘set and setting’, and argued that the mind-set of the subject and the conditions or environment of the session was as influential as the pharmacological reaction itself. In this paper, we examine how religious sounds and music were both incorporated into and strategically avoided in the early psychedelic therapeutic sessions in an effort to achieve spiritual epiphanies at peak experiences. Prominent contemporary practices, we conclude, recapitulate many of the practices of the past, relying, we argue, on aesthetic premises that could hinder the therapy’s broader applicability.

The neglected object: A history of the concept of dreams in Polish psychiatry and psychology in the interwar period, 1918–1939

AHP readers will be interested in a new piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences: “The neglected object: A history of the concept of dreams in Polish psychiatry and psychology in the interwar period, 1918–1939,” Jan Kornaj. Abstract:

The development of the concept of dreams in interwar Polish psychiatry and psychology was influenced by Western European concepts as well as by sociocultural factors of the newly independent state. Few Polish psychiatrists addressed the subject of dreams. They were influenced mainly by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic concept of dreams, but also by Alferd Adler’s, Carl Gustav Jung’s, and Wilhelm Stekel’s ideas. Nevertheless, they approached psychoanalysis critically. The most comprehensive concept of dreams in Polish psychiatry was oneiroanalysis by Tadeusz Bilikiewicz. Oneironalysis was a method of dream analysis based on psychoanalysis but it rejected the psychoanalytic method of free associations and challenged psychoanalytic approaches to the interpretation of dream symbols. Polish psychologists were even less interested in dreams than psychiatrists. Problems with dreams, the most elaborate psychological work by Stefan Szuman consisted of an outline of epistemological problems with general theories of dreams and a harsh critique of psychoanalysis. The neglect of the subject of dreams in Polish psychiatric society can be seen as connected with the social and professional reception of psychoanalysis in Poland. Psychoanalysis was met with opposition from conservative scholars and publicists presenting nationalistic and anti-Semitic attitudes. It was also criticized by the biologically oriented majority of psychiatrists of the Polish Psychiatric Association. In the case of psychology, the most influential Polish psychological school, Lvov-Warsaw School, promoted Brentanian intentionalism, introspection, and psychology of consciousness, therefore, leading to psychologists’ reluctance to explore unconscious states like dreams.

Dance becomes therapeutic in the mid to late 20th century

A new open-access piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Dance becomes therapeutic in the mid to late 20th century,” Janka Kormos. Abstract:

The convergence of dance art and therapeutic culture engendered the development of dance-movement therapy in the mid to late 20th century internationally. This article traces the sociopolitical, institutional, and aesthetic influences that coalesced in this process by contrasting histories of dance-movement therapy in Hungary and in the United States. The professionalization dance-movement therapy, through which it established its own theory, practice, and training institutions, occurred first in the United States in the late 1940s. Modern dancers in the United States began to conceptualize their activity as therapeutic, and the dancer as a (secular) healer, a therapist. The influx of therapeutic concepts into the field of dance is viewed as an example of therapeutic discourse permeating various areas of life in the 20th century. The Hungarian case provides a contrasting history of therapeutic culture, one that deviates from the predominant view of the phenomenon as a product of the global spread of Western modernization and the growth of free-market capitalism. Hungarian movement and dance therapy indeed developed independently from its American predecessor. Its history is intimately tied to the sociopolitical context of state-socialist period, particularly to the institutionalization of psychotherapy in public hospitals, and to the adaptation of Western group psychotherapies within the informal setting of the “second public sphere.” The legacy of Michael Balint and the British object-relations school provided its theoretical framework. Its methodology was rooted in postmodern dance. The methodological differences between American dance-movement therapy and the Hungarian method reflects the shift in dance aesthetics that occurred internationally between 1940 and 1980s.

Beauty and the Brain: The Science of Human Nature in Early America

AHP readers may be interested in a recent book on the history of phrenology and physiognomy: Beauty and the Brain: The Science of Human Nature in Early America. The book is described as follows:

Examining the history of phrenology and physiognomy, Beauty and the Brain proposes a bold new way of understanding the connection between science, politics, and popular culture in early America.
Between the 1770s and the 1860s, people all across the globe relied on physiognomy and phrenology to evaluate human worth. These once-popular but now discredited disciplines were based on a deceptively simple premise: that facial features or skull shape could reveal a person’s intelligence, character, and personality. In the United States, these were culturally ubiquitous sciences that both elite thinkers and ordinary people used to understand human nature.
While the modern world dismisses phrenology and physiognomy as silly and debunked disciplines, Beauty and the Brain shows why they must be taken seriously: they were the intellectual tools that a diverse group of Americans used to debate questions of race, gender, and social justice. While prominent intellectuals and political thinkers invoked these sciences to justify hierarchy, marginalized people and progressive activists deployed them for their own political aims, creatively interpreting human minds and bodies as they fought for racial justice and gender equality. Ultimately, though, physiognomy and phrenology were as dangerous as they were popular. In addition to validating the idea that external beauty was a sign of internal worth, these disciplines often appealed to the very people who were damaged by their prejudicial doctrines. In taking physiognomy and phrenology seriously, Beauty and the Brain recovers a vibrant—if largely forgotten—cultural and intellectual universe, showing how popular sciences shaped some of the greatest political debates of the American past.

Credo: R. D. Laing and Radical Psychotherapy

A new book on R.D. Laing and radical psychotherapy may interest AHP readers: Credo: R. D. Laing and Radical Psychotherapy. The book is described as follows:

Feldmár was three and a half years old when the Arrow Cross came and took his mother to Auschwitz, his father to labour service, and his grandmother to the ghetto. A young Catholic woman hid him for a year and a half – perhaps she inspired Feldmár to become the kind stranger in many other people’s lives years later. Feldmár was sixteen in 1956 when the revolution was crushed, and he escaped from Hungary to Canada all by himself. He fled from bleak prospects and a controlling, critical mother into the unknown. He ended up in Toronto, Canada, and became an academic. In the early 1970s, he met the person who radically changed his thinking: R. D. Laing.

The book’s longest chapter, ’Journal Entries’, comes from notes Feldmár took in 1974–1975 when he studied with Laing in London. He adds notes and remarks in the present to the past, increasing the tension in the already fascinating passages. Following this is the text of an important conversation with Laing, covering topics such as love, therapy, and change. Next is a paper by his lifelong friend Francis Huxley, ’Shamanism, Healing, and R. D. Laing’. The book concludes with perhaps its most influential chapter, ’Fantasy and Reality’. Here, Feldmár speculates on the fundamental elements of his approach to psychotherapy: the nature of responsibility and ethics, politics, freedom, individuality, community, solidarity, will, and relationships.

The bond between Feldmár and Laing permeates every page of Credo. The reader can closely follow Feldmár’s remarkable journey of how their relationship shaped his therapeutic approach and helped him develop into the radical and inspirational psychotherapist he is today. This book is essential reading for all psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, and fans of R. D. Laing.

Thanks to h-madness for bringing this to our attention.

Now Online: National Training Laboratory Still Image Collection

Image description: Ten people seated around a large wooden table in a classroom or meeting room. Some are smiling up toward the camera, while others are writing on paper. A chalkboard covered in writing is in the background.

AHP readers may be interested in, and able to help identify the people within, the newly digitized National Training Laboratory still image collection at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology (CCHP). As CCHP has announced:

After months of digitization, the National Training Laboratory still image collection is now available in our online repository! Browse over 400 photos documenting the history of the groundbreaking institute, founded by Kurt Lewin in 1947.

As you browse the collection, you may notice that many individuals are left unnamed in our image descriptions. If you recognize any of these individuals, please reach out to and help us identify them!

New history of science platform from the Royal Society: Science in the Making 

AHP readers may be interested in a newly available resource:

Royal Society Publishing recently launched our new history of science platform Science in the making [] that allows free access to digitised versions of over 30,000 archival items related to the publication of our journals from the past 400+ years.

This is an extremely important and ambitious digitisation programme that presents the complex material that lies behind the published articles including reviews by Darwin, doodles by Newton, astronomical observations, electrical experiments, anatomical illustrations and more, drawing from every branch of science.

Artificial Intelligence from Colonial India: Race, Statistics, and Facial Recognition in the Global South

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece in Science, Technology, & Human Values: “Artificial Intelligence from Colonial India: Race, Statistics, and Facial Recognition in the Global South,”
Simon Michael Taylor, Kalervo N. Gulson, and Duncan McDuie-Ra. Abstract:

This article examines the history of a similarity measure—the Mahalanobis Distance Function—and its movement from colonial India into contemporary artificial intelligence technologies, including facial recognition, and its reapplication into postcolonial India. The article identifies how the creation of the Distance Function was connected to the colonial “problem” of caste and ethnic classification for British bureaucracy in 1920-1930s India. This article demonstrates that the Distance Function is a statistical method, originating to make anthropometric caste distinctions in India, that became both a technical standard and a mobile racialized technique, utilized in machine learning applications. The creation of the Distance Function as a measure of “similitude” at a particular period of colonial state-making helped to model wider categories of classification which have proliferated in facial recognition technology. Overall, we highlight how a measurement function that operates in recognition technologies today can be traced across time and space to other racialized contexts.

April 2023 Issue of the Canadian Journal of Health History

A number of articles in the April 2023 issue of the Canadian Journal of Health History will interest AHP readers. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The Varieties of Psychedelic Expertise in 1960s Canada: The Psychiatrists behind the Addiction Research Foundation’s Study of LSD Therapy,” Andrew Jones. Abstract:

In 1962, Ontario’s Addiction Research Foundation launched the first double-blind randomized controlled trial of LSD therapy as a treatment for alcoholism. The study, which found that LSD was not effective, was heavily criticized by other therapists working with the drug. These critics argued that the Toronto researchers who carried out the study were biased against LSD and used an anti-therapeutic method that was destined to produce negative results. Instead of creating a comfortable and supportive environment, they stressed, the Toronto group restrained patients to a bed in a hospital ward, used an unusually large dose of LSD, and hardly provided any careful therapeutic support. Some even compared this method to a “form of torture.” Historians have paid little attention to the study, mentioning it only as an example of flawed or naïve LSD therapy that contrasted with the more advanced “psychedelic” approach developed in Saskatchewan. In this paper, I take a closer look at the Toronto psychiatrists who carried out the study and created the unique method that was employed. I show that they were actually quite excited about LSD and were more sophisticated in their approach to its use than has been appreciated by historians and critics. In many ways, they had their own brand of LSD expertise that differed from that of the Saskatchewan group. Some of the problems with the ARF study, then, did not stem from negative bias or a lack of competency, but instead resulted from the awkward relationship between LSD therapy and controlled trials.

En 1962, la Fondation pour la recherche sur la toxicomanie de l’Ontario lançait son premier test aléatoire et contrôlé en double aveugle de thérapie par le LSD pour traiter l’alcoolisme. L’étude, qui concluait que le LSD n’était pas efficace, a fait l’objet de critiques sévères de la part d’autres thérapeutes qui utilisaient cette drogue. Ces thérapeutes soutenaient que le groupe de recherche torontois avait un parti pris défavorable au LSD et avait employé des méthodes antithérapeutiques dans le but de produire des résultats négatifs. Ainsi, selon eux, au lieu de créer un environnement offrant un réel soutien, le groupe de Toronto attachait les patients à leur lit d’hôpital, employait des doses inhabituellement élevées de LSD et ne fournissait à peu près aucun soutien thérapeutique. La méthode a même été comparée à « une forme de torture ». Les historiennes et les historiens ont accordé peu d’attention à l’étude, sauf pour la citer comme exemple déficient ou naïf de thérapie par le LSD, en l’opposant à l’approche « psychédélique » plus avancée mise au point en Saskatchewan. Dans cet article, je m’intéresse aux psychiatres qui ont mené l’étude de Toronto et conçu la méthode originale employée à la Fondation. Je montre que l’usage du LSD suscitait beaucoup d’enthousiasme dans le groupe et que son utilisation de cette drogue était plus complexe que l’ont reconnu jusqu’ici l’histoire et la critique. À plusieurs égards, le groupe de Toronto disposait de sa propre expertise en matière de LSD, différente de celle de ses collègues de la Saskatchewan. J’en conclus qu’une partie des problèmes attribués à l’étude conduite par la Fondation ne provient pas d’un préjugé défavorable ou d’un manque de compétence, mais plutôt des liens complexes entre la thérapie par le LSD et les essais cliniques.

“Confinia Psychiatrica: Patient Art and the Diagnosis of Mental Illness,” Jacalyn Duffin and Lynda Mikelova. Abstract:

In 1950 in Paris, the inaugural World Conference on Psychiatry hosted an exhibit of artwork by patients, including 150 works from 22 patients of Montreal’s Dr. Ewen Cameron. This event marked the inception of a vigorous but short-lived movement in the history of psychiatry and its relationship to art – not as therapy but as a tool for diagnosis. Two theses elevated the topic to the realm of serious research; their authors became leaders in the field: Robert Volmat (1953) and Irene Jakab (1956).

Identifying roots in the earlier works of Ambroise Tardieu and Hans Prinzhorn and with connections to the Art Brut movement of artist Jean Dubuffet, a group of adherents formed the Société International de la Psychopathologie de l’Expression (SIPE) in Verona, Italy, in 1959. Members sought to release the hidden diagnostic potential of patient art through research on symbols, colour, structure, and content, deriving codes that would point to specific epistemic categories of evolving psychiatric nosology. National societies also arose in many countries. The related journal Confinia Psychiatrica (Borderland of Psychiatry) ran from 1958 to 1980.

If patient art could be diagnostic, changes in it could be used to assess therapeutic progress. Perhaps for this reason, the pharmaceutical company Sandoz took a particular interest in SIPE, publishing, small collections of patient art of various diagnostic categories and scholarly analysis for distribution to practitioners. We argue that this publishing exercise was a form of corporate advertising – attractive, informative, avant-garde.

This paper traces the history of Confinia and SIPE through the publications and meetings, showing how the attempt to use art for “diagnosis” evolved into the more durable process of art as therapy.

En 1950, à Paris, le premier Congrès mondial de psychiatrie accueillait une exposition consacrée à des œuvres d’art produites par des patient·es, notamment 150 œuvres de 22 des patient·es d’un médecin montréalais, le Dr Ewen Cameron. L’évènement marqua la naissance d’un mouvement qui fut bref, quoique vigoureux, dans l’histoire de la psychiatrie et de sa relation à l’art entendu non pas comme une thérapie, mais comme un outil de diagnostic. Deux thèses élevèrent ensuite le sujet au rang des recherches sérieuses ; l’auteur de la première, Robert Volmat (1953), et l’autrice de la seconde, Irene Jakab (1956), allaient éventuellement figurer parmi les personnalités les plus en vue de ce domaine.

Se reconnaissant des affinités avec les travaux antérieurs d’Ambroise Tardieu et de Hans Prinzhorn, et cultivant des liens avec le mouvement de l’art brut représenté par Jean Dubuffet, un groupe d’adeptes fonda la Société internationale de la psychopathologie de l’expression (SIPE), à Vérone, en Italie, en 1959. Par leurs recherches sur les symboles, les couleurs, la structure et le contenu des œuvres de patient·es, ses membres cherchaient à libérer le potentiel diagnostique caché de ces œuvres en extrayant des codes censés indiquer des catégories épistémiques précises de la nosologie psychiatrique alors en pleine évolution. Des sociétés nationales furent aussi fondées dans de nombreux pays. Une revue associée à ces travaux, Confinia Psychiatrica (Les Confins de la psychiatrie), fut publiée de 1958 à 1980.

Si les œuvres de patient·es pouvaient servir au diagnostic, leur évolution devait logiquement permettre d’évaluer les progrès d’une thérapie. C’est pour cette raison, peut-être, que la compagnie pharmaceutique Sandoz s’intéressa de près à la SIPE, publiant de petites collections d’œuvres de patient·es relevant de catégories de diagnostic variées, accompagnées d’analyses savantes, afin de les distribuer aux praticien·nes. Nous soutenons que cet exercice de publication était en fait une sorte de publicité d’affaires – séduisante, informative, d’avant-garde.

Dans cet article qui remonte, à travers publications et colloques, le cours de l’histoire de Confinia et de la SIPE, nous montrons que la tentative d’employer l’art comme un outil de diagnostic a évolué, jusqu’à devenir cette approche plus pérenne qui consiste à considérer l’art comme une forme de thérapie.

“Making Sense of “Insanity”: Law, Psychiatry, and the Royal Commission on the Law of Insanity as a Defence in Criminal Cases,” Eli Remington. Abstract:

In 1954, the Canadian government established the Royal Commission on the Law of Insanity as a Defence in Criminal Cases. While its final report had little impact at the time, the creation of the commission points to the emergence of insanity as a newly complex problem within the context of postwar Canada. Spurred on by the growing psychiatric profession and the destabilization of capital punishment as a viable sentence, the commission quickly realized that the building blocks of its solution – legal and psychiatric expertise – were largely incompatible. This article explores the commission’s problematization of insanity, which, far from providing solutions, highlighted the difficulties surrounding the integration of both psychiatric and legal knowledges of the day. The commission played an important role in upholding the status quo, and it provides an early example of the stasis that would characterize this area of the law until the early 1990s.

En 1954, le gouvernement du Canada mettait sur pied la Commission royale chargée d’étudier la défense d’aliénation mentale en matière criminelle. Même si son rapport eut peu de répercussions à l’époque, la création de la Commission suggère que le problème de l’aliénation mentale avait acquis une complexité nouvelle dans le contexte de l’après-guerre au Canada. La Commission, aiguillonnée par la profession psychiatrique en expansion et la remise en cause de la peine capitale comme sentence acceptable, a vite réalisé que les éléments de base de la solution à ce problème – les expertises juridique et psychiatrique – étaient en grande partie incompatibles. Cet article s’intéresse à la manière dont la Commission problématise l’aliénation mentale : loin de fournir des solutions, elle fait plutôt ressortir la difficuté d’arrimer les savoirs psychiatriques et juridiques de l’époque. La Commission a joué un rôle important dans le maintien du statut quo, et constitue un exemple précoce de l’immobilisme qui allait caractériser ce domaine du droit jusqu’au début des années 1990.

“Scénariser l’expérience infirmière en contexte de déshospitalisation psychiatrique : nord de l’Ontario, 1965-2015,” Marie LeBel. Abstract:

À partir d’une base de données sociohistoriques constituée d’entretiens semi-directifs avec des infirmières de la grande région du nord-est ontarien, nous explorons une nouvelle manière de présenter les résultats d’une recherche en histoire des soins et services de santé mentale en les scénarisant. Les témoins, des infirmières qui ont pratiqué en contexte régional nord-ontarien entre 1965 et 2015 auprès de patients aux prises avec des troubles de santé mentale graves (TSMG), font part des défis qu’a pu présenter pour elles de dispenser des soins psychiatriques selon les moments de cette période durant lesquels elles exerçaient. De leurs témoignages, nous avons extrait et construit un récit scénarisé.

Based on a socio-historical database consisting of semi-directional interviews with nurses from the Northeastern Ontario region and using narrative approach, this paper exploring a new way to present the results of research in the history of mental health care and services. The witnesses, nurses who practiced in a northern Ontario regional setting between 1965 and 2015 with patients with severe mental health disorders (SMHD), describe the challenges they may have faced in providing psychiatric care at different times of this long period of time during their practice. From the data we drew (extract) and build a narrative fictional scenario.

““If Ever a Wreck Came Back from Overseas She Was One”: The Treatment and Pensioning of Psychologically Traumatized Nursing Sisters after the First World War,” Lyndsay Rosenthal. Abstract:

During the First World War, 2845 women served as nursing sisters with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. After the war, some women developed nervous and mental conditions that they said were caused by their wartime service and applied for military pensions and treatment. So how were these women treated by doctors and pension boards? Men who suffered from psychological trauma were frequently labelled as “cowards” or “malingerers.” Many of the symptoms typically associated with nervous cases, such as hysteria, were viewed as inherently feminine at the time but we know little about how this criterion was applied to female veterans. One hundred forty-three nursing sisters who applied for pensions reported that they suffered from mental and nervous illnesses. An examination of veteran pension files suggests that psychologically traumatized women were also judged based on gendered stereotypes and encountered similar barriers to male veterans in trying to prove that their conditions were attributable to their service. These findings reveal the unique challenges and trauma women faced long after the war had ended.

Pendant la Première Guerre mondiale, 2 845 femmes ont servi comme infirmières militaires au sein du Corps expéditionnaire canadien. Après la guerre, certaines ont développé des troubles nerveux et mentaux qui, selon elles, étaient causés par leur service en temps de guerre et ont demandé des pensions et des traitements militaires. Alors, comment ces femmes étaient-elles traitées par les médecins et les gestionnaires des fonds de pension? Les hommes qui souffraient de traumatismes psychologiques étaient souvent qualifiés de «lâches» ou de «simulateurs». Bon nombre des symptômes généralement associés aux cas nerveux, tels que l’hystérie, étaient considérés comme intrinsèquement féminins à l’époque, mais nous savons peu de choses sur la manière dont ce critère a été appliqué aux femmes vétérans. Cent quarante-trois infirmières qui ont demandé une pension ont déclaré souffrir de maladies mentales et nerveuses. L’examen des dossiers de pension des anciens combattants suggère que les femmes psychologiquement traumatisées ont également été jugées sur la base de stéréotypes sexistes et ont rencontré des obstacles similaires à ceux des vétérans masculins en essayant de prouver que leurs problèmes de santé étaient attribuables à leur service. Ces résultats révèlent les défis et traumatismes uniques auxquels les femmes ont été confrontées longtemps après la fin de la guerre.

“In Charcot’s Shadow: On the Allure of “Great Men” and the Privileging of Epistemology in the History of Science and Medicine,” Courtney E. Thompson. Abstract:

This article explores the allure of “great men” in medical history through a comparative account of the work and lives of Jean-Martin Charcot and his student and collaborator, Désiré-Magloire Bourneville, in late nineteenth-century France. While historians of science and medicine have self-consciously rejected Whiggish and hagiographic “great man” history, the fixity of certain historical actors within our social and cultural histories reveals the continued hold of these figures and what they stand for within the grand narrative. The privileging of institutional and intellectual contributions has been perpetuated in such a way that bottom-up experiences and contributions in realms such as public health have been neglected. I argue that the continued prominence of certain historical medical figures, like Charcot, over forgotten contemporaries, like Bourneville, is representative of the way that historians of science and medicine have implicitly privileged intellectual contributions over social, political, or structural contributions.

Cet article explore l’attrait pour les « grands hommes » dans l’histoire de la médecine, en comparant la vie et l’œuvre de Jean-Martin Charcot et de son élève et collaborateur, Désiré-Magloire Bourneville, dans la France de la fin du XIXe siècle. Bien que le milieu de l’histoire des sciences et de la médecine ait plus ou moins rejeté les approches historiques fondées sur le whiggisme et l’hagiographie des « grands hommes », la permanence de certains acteurs historiques dans notre histoire sociale et culturelle révèle l’emprise que ces figures conservent sur les grands récits et le rôle qu’elles continuent d’y jouer. Le privilège accordé aux contributions institutionnelles et intellectuelles s’est perpétué, de telle sorte que les expériences et les apports provenant de la base dans des domaines comme la santé publique sont demeurés dans l’ombre. Je soutiens ici que l’attention reçue sans cesse par certains personnages de l’histoire de la médecine, tel Charcot, au détriment de leurs contemporains ayant sombré dans l’oubli, tel Bourneville, est représentative de la manière dont les historiens et les historiennes des sciences et de la médecine privilégient toujours, implicitement, les contributions intellectuelles plutôt que les contributions sociales, politiques ou structurelles.