Cover image for Mind games : American culture and the birth of psychotherapy
Mind games : American culture and the birth of psychotherapy
Caplan, Eric, 1962-
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Publication Information:
Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xiii, 242 pages ; 24 cm.
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RC443 .C33 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Eric Caplan's fascinating exploration of Victorian culture in the United States shatters the myth of Freud's seminal role in the creation of American psychotherapy. Resurrecting the long-buried "prehistory" of American mental therapeutics, Mind Games tells the remarkable story of how a widely assorted group of actors--none of them hailing from Vienna or from any other European city--compelled a reluctant medical profession to accept a new role for the mind in medicine. By the time Freud first set foot on American soil in 1909, as Caplan demonstrates, psychotherapy was already integrally woven into the fabric of American culture and medicine.

What came to be known as psychotherapy emerged in the face of considerable opposition, much--indeed most--of which was generated by the medical profession itself. Caplan examines the contentious interplay within the American medical community, as well as between American physicians and their lay rivals, who included faith-healers, mind-curists, Christian Scientists, and Protestant ministers. These early practitioners of alternative medicine ultimately laid the groundwork for a distinctive and much heralded American type of psychotherapy. Its grudging acceptance by both medical elites and rank and file physicians signified their understanding that reliance on physical therapies to treat nervous and mental symptoms compromised their capacity to treat--and compete--effectively in a rapidly expanding mental-medical marketplace. Mind Games shows how psychotherapy came to occupy its central position in mainstream American culture.

Author Notes

An award-winning teacher and former William Rainey Harper Fellow, Eric Caplan has taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, and Wesleyan University. He is currently on staff at the Pfizer Research University

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Caplan's cleverly titled and highly instructive study carefully analyzes the history of a mainstream American social and cultural institution: psychotherapy. This well-researched and skillfully written work shatters the falsehood that the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, played the pivotal role in the origin of American psychotherapy. Breaking new ground, Caplan details the early history of mental treatments by religious zealots (e.g., faith-healers, idiosyncratic clergymen, Christian Scientists) and an assortment of lay "mind-curists" as they adjured a disinclined medical community to accede to a new place for the mind in the treatment of mental disorders. Indeed, these indigenous advocates of alternative medicine, not doctors, laid the foundations for a unique, singular American variety of psychotherapy. The author shows how the rapidly expanding mental-medical marketplace of the early 1900s obliged the medical community's elites, and everyday physicians, to depart from their restrictive dependence on physical treatments to deal with mental dysfunctions. Supplying professionally authorized alternatives to the techniques provided by the expanding ranks of nonmedical competitors, they sought to acquire for themselves a commanding position in a disregarded market. In doing so, they elevated psychotherapy to a central position in American culture. Undergraduates and above. W. T. Howard; Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
1 Introductionp. 1
2 Trains, Brains, and Sprains: Railway Spine and the Origins of Psychoneurosesp. 11
Psychosomatic Backlashp. 17
From the Spine to the Brain: A Functional Reassessmentp. 19
Railway Surgeons Respondp. 26
Suggestion and American Railway Surgeryp. 32
Epiloguep. 35
3 Avoiding Psychotherapy: Neurasthenia and the Limits of Somatic Therapyp. 37
The Significance of Patient-Centered Therapeuticsp. 40
The Role of Rapportp. 42
Neurasthenic Therapy: Soma not Psychep. 45
4 Inventing Psychotherapy: The American Mind Cure Movement, 1830-1900p. 61
Mental Healing in America: Controversies and Consensusp. 65
The Early Disciples: Warren Felt Evans and Mary Baker Eddyp. 69
Midwestern Mind Curep. 76
New Thought and the Challenge to Christian Sciencep. 78
Physicians Respondp. 83
5 Flirting with Psychotherapy: Somatic Intransigence and the "Advanced Guard"p. 89
Demedicalizing the Mindp. 90
The Maintenance of Psychological Medicinep. 93
Somatic Intransigencep. 95
The Advanced Guard and the Challenge to Somaticismp. 98
Enduring Somaticism: 1906-1908p. 113
6 Embracing Psychotherapy: The Emmanuel Movement and the American Medical Professionp. 117
The Program Beginsp. 122
The Movement Spreadsp. 123
In the Public Eyep. 125
Medical Opposition: The Quest for Controlp. 131
The New York and Boston Controversiesp. 136
Clerical Oppositionp. 143
Psychological Oppositionp. 145
Final Defensep. 146
7 Conclusionp. 149
Notesp. 153
Selected Bibliographyp. 209
Indexp. 237