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.
Suspended between science, medicine, religion, art and philosophy, the advent of modern psychotherapies represents one of the distinctive features of 20th-century Western societies, and they are increasing being exported to the rest of the world. However, their historical study glaringly lags behind their societal impact and the role they play in contemporary mental health policies. In recent years, a small but significant body of work has arisen studying histories of psychotherapies in discrete local contexts throughout the world, which is expanding and reframing our knowledge of them. However, little has been done to draw this work together within a comparative setting, and to chart the intersection of these connected histories and transcultural networks of exchange of knowledge and healing practices. This conference takes up these questions, through drawing together scholars working on histories of psychotherapies in Brazil, Europe, Japan, the UK and the US.
Those in our readership oriented towards the intersection of therapy and philosophy will be quite keen on the June 2016 issue of Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychologybecause of its theme, existential psychotherapy. The guest editor is Duff Waring. The format taken is featured articles, two commentaries per and then a response from the article authors:
Abstract: This article invites conversation regarding what is seen as a pivotal problem in existential psychotherapy today: the loss of its language of being, its foundational understanding of ontology, Being, and the human being, Dasein. The article begins by introducing the disciplinary challenges of being an existential psychotherapist. This is followed by a systematic, multiperspectival discussion of ontology and its language of being and the challenges an ‘ontological eye’ presents for the theory and practice of existential psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy. Historical and cultural factors contributing to America’s conceptual and clinical dispersity and disarray in existential thought and practice are summarized before presenting a brief overview of existential psychotherapy’s present standing, especially with respect to its prospects for developing a regional ontological understanding of the human as human and as a whole.
Abstract: This article attempts to illustrate how an existential ontology has a great deal to offer to psychotherapists. Because this complex interaction may often be difficult to see, three ways in which such philosophical work has been applicable and enriching in the context of a particular psychotherapy practice are presented. These include a) the use of existential themes and concepts in psychotherapy, including the notions of existential guilt, existential anxiety, and bad faith, b) the argument that an existential ontology provides a more suitable philosophical grounding for psychotherapeutic theories and practices, one which better describes the life-world, experiential phenomena in question, and c) the idea that an existential version of the mental status examination, centered around six key dimensions of human experience (derived from an existential ontology) can provide us with a more in-depth understanding of, and better description of, an individual’s experiential world.
Abstract: Heidegger’s existential ontology has greatly influenced existential psychiatry and psychotherapy, yet opinions about the psychotherapeutic utility of an ontological perspective remain divided, especially in light of Heidegger’s negative reactions to misappropriation of his ontological analysis. The present discussion questions the universality of existential ontology, not to do away with it, but, rather, to ‘rehabilitate’ Binswanger’s purported ‘mistaken’ take on ontology and his much critiqued notion of “world-design” with Merleau-Ponty’s ideas of the ontological relevance of “emblems of Being.” The concept of world-design is considered here as a clinically illuminating notion that warrants revision and expansion, which I attempt with the concept of implicit world-projection and its relation to emblems of Being. This reformulation is intended to capture the ontologically world-defining meaning horizon and its relationship to the varying degrees of ontological security and insecurity, ontological robustness, sensitivity, and oversensitivity. This revised notion of emblematic implicit world-projection reaches beyond the confines of the pathological and can be situated within the larger context of relational theorizing. It can also serve as a bridging concept to contemporary reformulations of the unconscious as the “implicit.”
In Under the Strain of Color, Gabriel N. Mendes recaptures the history of a largely forgotten New York City institution that embodied new ways of thinking about mental health, race, and the substance of citizenship. Harlem’s Lafargue Mental Hygiene Clinic was founded in 1946 as both a practical response to the need for low-cost psychotherapy and counseling for black residents (many of whom were recent migrants to the city) and a model for nationwide efforts to address racial disparities in the provision of mental health care in the United States.
The result of a collaboration among the psychiatrist and social critic Dr. Fredric Wertham, the writer Richard Wright, and the clergyman Rev. Shelton Hale Bishop, the clinic emerged in the context of a widespread American concern with the mental health of its citizens. It proved to be more radical than any other contemporary therapeutic institution, however, by incorporating the psychosocial significance of antiblack racism and class oppression into its approach to diagnosis and therapy.
Mendes shows the Lafargue Clinic to have been simultaneously a scientific and political gambit, challenging both a racist mental health care system and supposedly color-blind psychiatrists who failed to consider the consequences of oppression in their assessment and treatment of African American patients. Employing the methods of oral history, archival research, textual analysis, and critical race philosophy, Under the Strain of Color contributes to a growing body of scholarship that highlights the interlocking relationships among biomedicine, institutional racism, structural violence, and community health activism.
The September 2015 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Among the articles in this issue are ones on Carl Jung (above) and his investigation of his cousin’s mediumship, the epistemological problems of incorporating possession into the DSM, a case study of a museum of mental health care history, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstract follow below.
“The epistemological significance of possession entering the DSM,” by Craig Stephenson. The abstract reads,
The discourse of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM reflects the inherently dialogic or contradictory nature of its stated mandate to demonstrate both ‘nosological completeness’ and cultural ‘inclusiveness’. Psychiatry employs the dialogic discourse of the DSM in a one-sided, positivistic manner by identifying what it considers universal mental disease entities stripped of their cultural context. In 1992 the editors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders proposed to introduce possession into their revisions. A survey of the discussions about introducing ‘possession’ as a dissociative disorder to be listed in the DSM-IV indicates a missed epistemological break. Subsequently the editors of the DSM-5 politically ‘recuperated’ possession into its official discourse, without acknowledging the anarchic challenges that possession presents to psychiatry as a cultural practice.