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APA Monitor: From Rest Cure to Work Cure

This month’s article in the Time Capsule section of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology describes the emergence of psychotherapy in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. Authored by historian of psychology Ben Harris (left) and his student Courtney Stevens, the article, “From Rest Cure to Work Cure,” provides an overview of the state of psychotherapy in America prior to Freud’s famed 1909 visit. According to the article,

For most of the 19th century, neurologists and psychiatrists rejected highly psychological treatments and theories. These physicians attributed mental suffering to brain pathology; they excluded emotions, beliefs and ideas as possible contributors to one’s mental health.

But by the 1890s, physicians began to reconsider their hostility to psychological concepts. As Harvard neurologist James Jackson Putnam put it in 1899:

“It is a matter for congratulations that this wave is being reinforced by another, which is sweeping us toward a better knowledge of the secrets of the mental life in health and disease.”

He was referring to psychotherapy, the newly coined term and increasingly popular therapy for somatic and psychological suffering. By 1909 — the year Sigmund Freud visited America — psychotherapy had won the allegiance of psychologists, clergy and diverse medical specialties.

The full article can be found online here.