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American Therapy: The Rise of Psychotherapy in the United Statesby Jonathan Engel
Synopses & Reviews
“Psychology has stepped down from the university chair into the marketplace” was how the New York Times put it in 1926. Another commentator in 1929 was more biting. Psychoanalysis, he said, had over a generation, “converted the human scene into a neurotic.” Freud first used the word around 1895, and by the 1920s psychoanalysis was a phenomenon to be reckoned with in the United States. How it gained such purchase, taking hold in virtually every aspect of American culture, is the story Lawrence R. Samuel tells in Shrink, the first comprehensive popular history of psychoanalysis in America.
Arriving on the scene at around the same time as the modern idea of the self, psychoanalysis has both shaped and reflected the ascent of individualism in American society. Samuel traces its path from the theories of Freud and Jung to the innermost reaches of our current me-based, narcissistic culture. Along the way he shows how the arbiters of culture, high and low, from public intellectuals, novelists, and filmmakers to Good Housekeeping and the Cosmo girl, mediated or embraced psychoanalysis (or some version of it), until it could be legitimately viewed as an integral feature of American consciousness.
"Since 50% of Americans will reportedly undergo some form of psychotherapy in their lifetimes, Engel, a professor of health care policy and management at Seton Hall University, presents a complete survey of the 100-year-old history of American mental health practitioners. Tracing the rise and decline of psychoanalysis in America (including the pioneering theories of homegrown talents Harry Stack Sullivan and Karen Horney), and its replacement by other, more targeted forms of therapy, this book notes that mental health treatment has become intensely consumer-oriented, tailored to finicky patients and leading to a variety of therapies such as Gestalt, rebirthing, primal scream therapy and medications like Prozac and Zoloft (though the discussion of medications fails to do justice to their complexities). Engel (The Epidemic: A Global History of AIDS) touts community mental health facilities and new progress in treatments and drugs to control addictions and mental instability. Highly informative, if a bit textbookish in tone, this is a capable introduction to the ever-changing American mental health industry and its practitioners. 8 pages of b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From Freud to Zoloft, this comprehensive history of American psychotherapy begins with the monumental figure of Sigmund Freud and moves through the emergence of group therapy, psychopharmacology, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
From Freud to Zoloft, the first comprehensive history of American Psychotherapy
Fifty percent of Americans will undergo some form of psychotherapy in their lifetimes, but the origins of the field are rarely known to patients. Yet the story of psychotherapy in America brims with colorful characters, intriguing experimental treatments, and intense debates within this community of healers.
American Therapy begins, as psychotherapy itself does, with the monumental figure of Sigmund Freud. The book outlines the basics of Freudian theory and discusses the peculiarly powerful influence of Freud on the world of American mental health. The book moves through the emergence of group therapy, the rise of psychosurgery, the evolution of uniquely American therapies such as Gestalt, rebirthing, and primal scream therapy, and concludes with the modern world of psychopharmacology, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and highly targeted short-term therapies.
For a counseled nation that freely uses terms such as“emotional baggag” and no longer stigmatizes mental health care, American Therapy is a remarkable history of an extraordinary enterprise.
About the Author
Jonathan Engel holds a Ph.D. in the history of science and medicine from Yale, and has written extensively about the historical development of U.S. medicine and health policy. His previous books are Doctors and Reformers: Discussion and Debate Over Health Policy 1925-1950, Poor People’s Medicine: Medicaid and American Charity Care Since 1965, and The Epidemic: A Global History of AIDS. A professor of health care policy and management at Seton Hall University, he lives in New Jersey.
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