History of Psychology Articles

5 Must-Reads About the History of Psychology

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

5 Must-Reads About the History of PsychologyEvery month I write several articles for this blog about the history of psychology. I do this in part because, in order to know where we’re going, we must know where we’ve been.

While researching my posts, I come across many fascinating articles about psychology. Here are five diverse pieces I think you’ll find especially interesting.

1. Checkout Time at the Asylum

Bellevue Hospital is the oldest public hospital in the U.S. and arguably the most notorious. Of course that’s largely because of its psychiatric wing. In this article, writer Mark Harris traces Bellevue’s beginnings along with its famous and infamous residents.

A Dangerous Method Movie Starts Today

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

What happens when history collides at the intersection of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung over a woman (who also happens to be Jung’s patient)?

Find out today with the release of the new David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) flick, A Dangerous Method. It’s opening in New York at The Sunshine and Lincoln Plaza and in LA at the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark.

The movie centers around the relationship between Jung and Freud after the young Dr. Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes on a new Russian patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). But Jung and his more experienced teacher, Dr. Freud (Viggo Mortensen), both fall under the spell of Sabina, driving a wedge between the two men.

The History of Nude Psychotherapy

Friday, November 18th, 2011

The History of Nude Psychotherapy It all started in 1933 with a paper by Howard Warren, a Princeton psychologist and president of the American Psychological Association, who spent a week at a German nudist camp a year earlier.

According to Ian Nicholson, Professor of Psychology at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Warren’s article, “Social Nudism and the Body Taboo,” “was a qualitative and largely sympathetic consideration of the social and psychological significance of nudism.”

Warren “described nudism in therapeutic terms, highlighting the ‘easy camaraderie’ and lack of ‘self-consciousness’ in the nudist park, in addition to a ‘notable improvement in general health,'” along with the principal perspective to return to nature.

Soon after, other articles were published in psychology journals that highlighted the benefits of nudism in contributing to healthy, well-adjusted kids and adults.

6 Facts About Transpersonal Psychology

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

6 Facts About Transpersonal PsychologyI don’t remember learning about transpersonal psychology in my clinical psych program. (With all that reading and lack of sleep, it’s also possible I just missed that lesson.) So I was intrigued when I recently came across the term, and decided to do some digging.

In the Foreword of The Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology, writer Ken Wilber defines “transpersonal” as “personal plus.” He explains that transpersonal work integrates both personal psychology and psychiatry but then “adds those deeper or higher aspects of human experience that transcend the ordinary and the average—experiences that are, in other words, ‘transpersonal’ or ‘more than personal,’ personal plus.”

It turns out that transpersonal psychology focuses on the spiritual. Bruce W. Scotton, M.D., one of the editors of the book, describes “spiritual” as “the realm of the human spirit, that part of humanity that is not limited to bodily experience.”

An Open Letter to the DSM-5

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

As the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders continues to develop, there has been more and more reaction from professional groups with concerns. The most recent of these is an open letter that was sponsored by group of American Psychological Association divisions, and you can read it here: Open Letter to the DSM-5.

The biggest complaint here is that the DSM-5 development committee appears to have departed from the “atheoretical” approach that the past two version of have taken, in favor of a clear biomedical approach. The DSM-5 also seems to be changing the very definition of mental disorder by adding the criterion: ‘[A behavioral or psychological syndrome] that reflects an underlying psychobiological dysfunction.’

Upcoming Movie: A Dangerous Method

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Upcoming Movie: A Dangerous MethodWhat happens when history collides at the intersection of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung?

Potentially, some pretty interesting fireworks. So that’s why I’m especially looking forward to the new David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) flick, A Dangerous Method.

The movie centers around the relationship between Jung and Freud after the young Dr. Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes on a new Russian patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). But Jung and his more experienced teacher, Dr. Freud (Viggo Mortensen), both fall under the spell of Sabina, driving a wedge between the two men.

Based upon a true story, Spielrein was admitted in August 1904 to the Burghölzli mental hospital near Zürich, where Carl Gustav Jung worked at that time, according to Wikipedia. “While there, [Sabina] established a deep emotional relationship with Jung who later was her medical dissertation advisor. The historian and psychoanalyst Peter Loewenberg argues that this was a sexual relationship, in breach of professional ethics…”

Click through to learn more and view the trailer.

Was Sybil Faking Multiple Personalities?

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Was Sybil Faking Multiple Personalities?Multiple personality disorder — now known in modern psychological lingo as dissociative identity disorder (DID) in the DSM-IV — is a fairly uncommon mental health concern. But it remains an intriguing one because of its nature: The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states. Each of these identities or personality states has its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self, and take alternating control of the person’s behavior.

Sybil is one of the most popularly known individuals who had multiple personality disorder, largely because of a book published in the 1970s that detailed her experience and that of her psychiatrist in trying to help treat her.

Now Debbie Nathan, writing in her new book, Sybil Exposed, suggests that the core diagnosis for Sybil — of multiple personality disorder — was made up by the patient to keep in the good graces of her psychiatrist.

The Amazing Neuron: Facts about Neurons

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The Amazing Neuron: Facts about NeuronsNeurons are specific, unique kinds of cells in our bodies that carry information through electrical and chemical signals. Neurons are a core component of our nervous system, which includes both the brain and the spinal cord.

The neuron hypothesis was a major influence on modern neuropsychology.

The neuron hypothesis has three key aspects:

  • Neurons are discrete, autonomous cells that interact but are not physically connected.
  • They send electrical signals that have a chemical basis.
  • They communicate with one another by using chemical signals.

Want to learn more about the amazing neuron? Read on…

History of Psychology: American Psychoanalyst A.A. Brill

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

History of Psychology: American Psychoanalyst A.A. BrillAbout a month ago, I was reading the book The Sibling Effect: What Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us by Time senior editor and science writer Jeffrey Kluger. He included some interesting tidbits about singletons and how professionals viewed only children in the past.

Did you know that G. Stanley Hall, a psychologist, professor and the first president of the American Psychological Association, actually believed that “[B]eing an only child is a disease in itself”?

He wasn’t the only one. In his 1921 book Basic Principles of Psychoanalysis, psychiatrist Abraham Arden Brill wrote:

The only child is the morbid product of our present social economic system. He is usually an offspring of wealthy parents who, having been themselves brought up in luxury and anxious that their children should share their fate, refuse to have more than one or two children. By their abnormal love they not only unfit the child for life’s battle but prevent him from developing into normal manhood, thus producing sexual perverts and neurotics of all descriptions. It would be best for the individual as well as the race that there should be no only children.

After reading this quote, I became curious about the man who speculated that singletons essentially contaminated our race. (And, honestly, as an only child, I was a bit offended.)

A Forgotten Pioneer in Cognitive Psychology: Otto Selz

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

A Forgotten Pioneer in Cognitive Psychology: Otto SelzOtto Selz, Ph.D, is a name you might not immediately associate with cognitive psychology or perhaps anything else for that matter. But Selz was one of the major players responsible for planting the seeds for cognitive psychology.

Selz was born on Feb. 14, 1881 in Munich, Germany to a well-off family. His father was a partner at a banking house and his mother’s father was a wealthy vinegar manufacturer. She came from a long line of Spanish Jews (ter Hark, 2010). Selz was a bright child, so bright in fact that “he was excused from the oral part of his final examinations in 1899″ (p.3).

At his father’s urging, Selz took a detour by studying law. But when he was admitted to the bar, Selz asked for his name to be removed. In 1909, he received his Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Munich. (It was entitled “The psychological theory of thinking and the transcendence problem.”)

Are the Puritans Behind the War on Antidepressants?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Are the Puritans Behind the War on Antidepressants?It is an honor for me to publish the following piece by Ronald Pies, M.D., professor of psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University and Tufts University School of Medicine, because I find him to be one of the most fascinating psychiatrists in the Northern Hemisphere (I’m thinking the Southern is full of kooks).

He always comes up with an intriguing angle on psychotherapy, antidepressants, the psychology of wellness … you name it, and he — like me — loves the intersection of faith and medicine, as is evident in his book, “Becoming a Mensch.” So, here’s a curious piece about why the we might blame the Puritans for the anti-med movement in the US. Let me know your thoughts, because I know that you will have some after reading this piece. I should probably also tell you that he wrote the foreword to “The Pocket Therapist.” I was once yelled at by a reader for not disclosing that … whatever.

These are not good times for Prozac and its progeny. In the popular media, the use of antidepressants has been likened to swallowing “expensive Tic-Tacs”, while in professional journals, the effectiveness of these medications has been challenged, if not discounted. And even a casual Google search under the terms, “Antidepressants damage” turns up thousands of websites and articles claiming that these drugs cause brain damage, induce suicide, or lead to “addiction.” Yikes!

Stanley Milgram & The Shock Heard Around the World

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Next to Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, Stanley Milgram’s obedience studies are arguably the most famous, influential and controversial of psychology experiments.

The obedience studies started in 1961 at Yale University when Milgram was just a 27-year-old assistant professor. Muzafer Sherif, also a pioneer in social psychology who conducted experiments at a summer camp to test intergroup conflict, remarked that: “Milgram’s obedience experiment is the single greatest contribution to human knowledge ever made by the field of social psychology, perhaps psychology in general.”

At the time, before Sherif and Milgram’s experiments, researchers believed that individuals who inflicted harm on others, particularly the horrific acts of the Holocaust, were somehow different from the “normal” public. Much of the research concentrated on exploring the authoritarian personality.

But Milgram believed otherwise.

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