email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
Maximizing Effectiveness in Dynamic Psychotherapy Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy101 Healing StoriesA Clinician's Guide to Legal Issues in PsychotherapyA Map of the MindA Primer for Beginning PsychotherapyACT With LoveActive Treatment of DepressionAffect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of SelfAlready FreeBad TherapyBecoming an Effective PsychotherapistBecoming MyselfBefore ForgivingBeing a Brain-Wise TherapistBetrayed as BoysBeyond Evidence-Based PsychotherapyBeyond MadnessBeyond PostmodernismBinge No MoreBiofeedback for the BrainBipolar DisorderBody PsychotherapyBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBrain Change TherapyBrain Science and Psychological DisordersBrain-Based Therapy with AdultsBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBrief Adolescent Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Child Therapy Homework PlannerBrief Therapy Homework PlannerBuffy the Vampire Slayer and PhilosophyBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCase Studies in DepressionCaught in the NetChild and Adolescent Treatment for Social Work PracticeChoosing an Online TherapistChronic DepressionClinical Dilemmas in PsychotherapyClinical Handbook of Psychological DisordersClinical Intuition in PsychotherapyClinical Pearls of WisdomCo-Creating ChangeCognitive Therapy for Challenging ProblemsCompassionConfessions of a Former ChildConfidential RelationshipsConfidentiality and Mental HealthConfidingContemplative Psychotherapy EssentialsControlConversations About Psychology and Sexual OrientationCoping with BPDCouch FictionCounseling in GenderlandCounseling with Choice TheoryCouple SkillsCrazy for YouCreating a Life of Meaning and CompassionCreating HysteriaCritical Issues in PsychotherapyCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesDeafness In MindDecoding the Ethics CodeDeconstructing PsychotherapyDeep Brain StimulationDemystifying TherapyDepression 101Depression in ContextDialogues on DifferenceDissociative ChildrenDo-It-Yourself Eye Movement Techniques for Emotional HealingDoing CBTE-TherapyEarly WarningEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEnergy Psychology InteractiveErrant SelvesEssays on Philosophical CounselingEssentials of Wais-III AssessmentEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthics and Values in PsychotherapyEthics in Plain EnglishEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingExercise-Based Interventions for Mental IllnessExistential PsychotherapyExpectationExploring the Self through PhotographyExpressing EmotionFacing Human SufferingFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFamily TherapyFavorite Counseling and Therapy Homework AssignmentsFear of IntimacyFlourishingFolie a DeuxForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFoundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in PsychologyFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFrom Morality to Mental HealthFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGod & TherapyHalf Empty, Half FullHandbook of Clinical Psychopharmacology for TherapistsHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHandbook of Evidence-Based Therapies for Children and AdolescentsHealing the Heart and Mind with MindfulnessHeinz KohutHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHigh RiskHistory of PsychotherapyHow and Why Are Some Therapists Better Than Others?How Clients Make Therapy WorkHow People ChangeHow Psychotherapists DevelopHow to Fail As a TherapistHow to Go to TherapyHypnosis for Inner Conflict ResolutionHypnosis for Smoking CessationI Never Promised You a Rose GardenIf Only I Had KnownIn Others' EyesIn SessionIn Therapy We TrustIn Treatment: Season 1Incorporating Spirituality in Counseling and PsychotherapyInside the SessionInside TherapyIs Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Issues in Philosophical CounselingIt's Not as Bad as It SeemsItís Your HourLearning ACTLearning from Our MistakesLearning Supportive PsychotherapyLetters to a Young TherapistLife CoachingLogotherapy and Existential AnalysisLove's ExecutionerMadness and DemocracyMaking the Big LeapMan's Search for MeaningMaybe You Should Talk to SomeoneMetaphoria: Metaphor and Guided Metaphor for Psychotherapy and HealingMind GamesMindfulnessMindfulness and AcceptanceMindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for DepressionMindworks: An Introduction to NLPMockingbird YearsMoments of EngagementMomma and the Meaning of LifeMotivational Interviewing: Preparing People For ChangeMulticulturalism and the Therapeutic ProcessMultifamily Groups in the Treatment of Severe Psychiatric DisordersNarrative PracticeNietzsche and PsychotherapyOn the CouchOne Nation Under TherapyOur Inner WorldOur Last Great IllusionOutsider ArtOutsider Art and Art TherapyOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsOverexposedPathways to SpiritualityPersonality and PsychotherapyPhilosophical CounselingPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPhilosophical Issues in Counseling and PsychotherapyPhilosophical PracticePhilosophy and PsychotherapyPhilosophy for Counselling and PsychotherapyPhilosophy PracticePhilosophy's Role in Counseling and PsychotherapyPillar of SaltPlan BPlato, Not Prozac!Polarities of ExperiencesPower GamesPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyProcess-Based CBTPromoting Healthy AttachmentsPsychologists Defying the CrowdPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychosis in the FamilyPsychotherapyPsychotherapyPsychotherapy and ConfidentialityPsychotherapy As PraxisPsychotherapy East and WestPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy for Personality DisordersPsychotherapy Is Worth ItPsychotherapy Isn't What You ThinkPsychotherapy with Adolescent Girls and Young WomenPsychotherapy with Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy without the SelfPsychotherapy, American Culture, and Social PolicyRapid Cognitive TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRational Emotive Behavior TherapyRationality and the Pursuit of HappinessRebuilding Shattered LivesReclaiming Our ChildrenRecovery OptionsRelationalityRent Two Films and Let's Talk in the MorningSaving the Modern SoulScience and Pseudoscience in Clinical PsychologySecond-order Change in PsychotherapySelf-Compassion in PsychotherapySelf-Determination Theory in the ClinicSelf-Disclosure in Psychotherapy and RecoverySerious ShoppingSex, Therapy, and KidsSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySigns of SafetySoul Murder RevisitedStaring at the SunStraight to JesusStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherTaking America Off DrugsTales of PsychotherapyTales of UnknowingTalk is Not EnoughTalking Cures and Placebo EffectsTelling SecretsThe Behavioral Medicine Treatment PlannerThe Body in PsychotherapyThe Brief Couples Therapy Homework Planner with DiskThe Case Formulation Approach to Cognitive-Behavior TherapyThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Clinical Child Documentation SourcebookThe Clinical Documentation SourcebookThe Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Couch and the TreeThe Couples Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Crucible of ExperienceThe Cure of SoulsThe Death of PsychotherapyThe Education of Mrs. BemisThe Ethical Treatment of DepressionThe Ethics of PsychoanalysisThe Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Gift of TherapyThe Great Psychotherapy Debate: The Evidence for What Makes Psychotherapy Work The Healing JourneyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Heroic ClientThe Husbands and Wives ClubThe Love CureThe Making of a TherapistThe Mindful TherapistThe Mirror Crack'dThe Mummy at the Dining Room TableThe Neuroscience of PsychotherapyThe Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Healing the Social BrainThe New Rational TherapyThe Older Adult Psychotherapy Treatment PlannerThe Other Side of DesireThe Pastoral Counseling Treatment PlannerThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Pornographer's GriefThe Portable CoachThe Portable Ethicist for Mental Health Professionals The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday LifeThe Problem of EvilThe Problem with Cognitive Behavioural TherapyThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy Documentation PrimerThe Psychotherapy of HopeThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Schopenhauer CureThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Talking CureThe Therapeutic "Aha!"The Therapist's Guide to PsychopharmacologyThe Therapist's Guide to Psychopharmacology, Revised EditionThe Therapist's Ultimate Solution BookThe Trauma of Everyday LifeThe Trouble with IllnessThe UnsayableThe Way of the JournalTheory and Practice of Brief TherapyTherapy with ChildrenTherapy's DelusionsTheraScribe 3.0 for WindowsTheraScribe 4.0Thinking about ThinkingThinking for CliniciansThinking for CliniciansThoughts Without a ThinkerThriveToward a Psychology of AwakeningTracking Mental Health OutcomesTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreating Attachment DisordersTreatment for Chronic DepressionTreatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety DisordersUnderstanding Child MolestersUnspeakable Truths and Happy EndingsWhat the Buddha FeltWhat Works for Whom?What Works for Whom? Second EditionWhen the Body SpeaksWhispers from the EastWise TherapyWittgenstein and PsychotherapyWorking MindsWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaWriting About PatientsYoga Skills for Therapists:Yoga Therapy
Have many times have we heard a relative complain that their children's schools have enacted Alice-in-Wonderland policies designed to enhance "self-esteem": teachers are not allowed to correct with red pens because of the negative associations of their color; sports teams are not allowed to win because the defeated experience disappointment; everyone is awarded for excellence so no one feels dejected, etc.).
How widespread such practices are is debatable, though certainly the perception exists that "feelings are sacred and salvation lies in self-esteem." This sentiment is fueled by the "therapeutic gospel," but than God, Americans now turn to "psychological idolatry." Even how "people feel about how they feel" is a great concern (pp. 2–3). And consider this: in the fifteen years that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has been available, the number of mental disorders listed has grown from one hundred to more than three hundred (p. 4). Between 1945 and 1970, the number of psychiatrists increased from 3,600 to 18,400 (p. 217), and between 1957 and 1976, those seeking psychological help increased from 14% to 24%.
How did we reach an "age consumed by worship of the psyche" (p. 2)? "In Therapy We Trust" attempts to answer this question by illustrating how faith in psychological happiness has been intimately bound up with major socio-historical developments. The chapters are arranged chronologically, thereby making the arguments persuasive since the historical transition from a less-therapeutic mind-set to the highly psychologized society of today becomes clear. The therapeutic gospel has three tenets: (1) happiness should be our supreme goal. Wealth, public recognition, or high moral character are only valuable if they make us happy; (2) our problems stem from psychological causes; and (3) psychological problems underlying our unhappiness are treatable (p. 3).
Eva S. Moskowitz begins her tale of the birth of psychological society by introducing Phineas Pankhurst Quimby (1802–1866) in Chapter 1 ("Illness: A New Cure, A New Faith, 1850–1900"). In 1859 Quimby began to advocate "Spiritual Science" which, for the time, was based on novel notions, e.g., "investigations in psychology," "mental therapeutics," and "mind cure." It may be difficult for us to appreciate, but before 1850, medicine had a somatic or a spiritual orientation, so that treatment was not conceived psychologically (p. 280). For Quimby, however, one gained power over disease by understanding the mind. Conventional medicine neglected the role of the mind while religion contributed to sickness. Prayer was secularized, and the pursuit of personal happiness became a commandment. Not sin, but pessimism and negative thoughts, were to be avoided. Religion and science were fused.
Quimby's ideas constituted an important precursor to the postmodern therapeutic ethos of happiness. In particular, a movement of "religious medicine" loosely based on his teachings, called New Thought, would emerge (p. 19). Mental suggestion, psycho-gymnastics, and "mental photography" were aspects of this new worldview. The latter was developed by Henry Wood in his Ideal Suggestions through Mental Photography (1893). Pictures of a placard would be taken on which one would write down positive thoughts, and then an individual would stare at it for ten to twenty minutes. This practice was a "key aspect of the modern therapeutic agenda" in which one's mental processes and deep-seated emotions were made visible (p. 23). Organizations such as the League for the Larger Life, National New Thought Alliance, and the International Divine Science Association formed, and eventually over one hundred New Thought magazines would sprout up.
Chapter 2 ("Poverty: Reformers Offer Treatment, 1890–1930") deals with the intersection of social problems (e.g., poverty), the state, and social reformers who, imbued with the therapeutic gospel, encouraged welfare's psychologization. Some reformers traced the roots of poverty to character flaws, and saw asthenontology (study of human weakness) as the answer. Others sought to banish punishment from the criminal-justice system by injecting a "clinical atmosphere into the courtroom" (p. 45) and by replacing sentencing with diagnosis.
In the 1920s and 1930s, marriage began to be judged by a new psychological valuation that placed a premium on happiness, as explained in Chapter 3 ("Marriage: A Science of Personal Relations, 1920–1940"). An increasing divorce rate caught the attention of commentators, such as Ernest R. Groves, who authored the first textbook on matrimonial relations (Marriage, 1933) and the first book on social psychiatry (Mental Hygiene, 1930). Other works, such as Psychological Factors in Marital Happiness, appeared, as did new journals, with names like Marriage Hygiene. In 1942 the American Association of Marriage Counselors was established.
Military psychology emerged due to large number of psychiatric casualties caused by the massive killings of twentieth-century warfare. This is the subject of Chapter 4 ("War: The Soldiers Psyche, 1941–1945"). While a limited program was provided in World War One, during the Second World War millions of American men for the first time were exposed to the tenets of the psychological gospel. Theodore Adorno attempted to understand the mental underpinnings of fascism in his The Authoritarian Personality (1950), and eventually, the need for "psychological warfare" in order to predict and understand the psyche of our enemies would be recognized.
After the war the American home became the next target of the therapeutic gospel. In Chapter 5 ("Home: The Unhappy Housewife, 1945–1965") it is explained how attempts, driven by the consumption engine of postwar prosperity, were made to push products by appealing to women's apprehensions and aspirations. The virtues of self-fulfillment, linked to domesticity, were put on display in women's magazines, which introduced a new idiom, e.g., unconscious, psychosomatic, defensive reaction. Other terms that we now take for granted--ego, inferiority complex, self-esteem--became household words. Meanwhile, concerned with the "happiness" of average Americans, the federal government stepped in with the National Mental Health (1946) and National Mental Health Study (1955) Acts. In 1949, the National Institute of Mental Health was established, as was the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health in 1955.
The counterculture, feminist movement, and "personal politics" can be understood within the context of the dramatic growth of psychology as a discipline after 1945. The humanistic psychology of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow would play its part in stressing the "liberation of the self." These issues are treated in Chapter 6 ("Social Protest: Liberating the Psyche, 1960–1975"). This was also the period when the psychological harm of racism was recognized, e.g., Abram Kardiner and Lionel Ovesey's The Mark of Oppression: A Psychological Study of the American Negro (1951).
Chapters 7 and 8 ("Feelings: Expressing the Self, 1970–1980" and "Personal Problems and Public Debate," respectively) both deal with how modern society idolizes the individual's inner life. Encounter meetings, support groups, and self-help books of the "me" generation advise us to articulate a more authentic self and display our true feelings. Personal problems are made public via technologies such as "TV talking cures" and the Internet that were inconceivable to earlier generations. Identity politics, a product of the 1960s and 70s, became linked to the therapeutic gospel, as did the identity of being an addict (now we can be addicted to anything: sex, love, substances, shopping). Addiction has spawned other types of identity, e.g., codependents and survivors. By the 1980s a change in therapeutic thinking was discernable. "Rather than focusing on human potential, promoters of the therapeutic gospel focused on psychological vulnerabilities" (p. 282).
Moskowitz's most important point concerns how the "gospel of psychological happiness" distorts our appreciation of the production of self-disaffection by "underlying economic and political realities," the "realities of class," and "flaws in the market economy" (p. 7). Rather than "emotional retooling," "remedial emotional education," or "emotional illiteracy," we should acknowledge the social conditions that generate alienation. For example, the discourse on what makes for a happy marriage in fact represented "deep-seated gender and class interests" (p. 99), and despite well-intentioned efforts of reformers, such attempts ended up ignoring larger economic conditions and "psychologized difficulties that were structural and social" (p. 69).
In the Epilogue Moskowitz writes that "No other nation in the world puts so much faith in emotional well-being and self-help techniques" (p. 278). She suggests optimistic individualism, generated by prosperity, account for such dedicated "soul-doctoring." This very optimism, however, "seems continually undermined by consumerism," which "markets psychological ill-being." Products, and even the "act of purchasing itself are the cure" (p. 279). Other reasons for this "national investment in feelings" include the: (1) decline of religion; our loss of faith in salvation has been replaced by self-glorification; (2) institutional experimentation that has led to the growth of psychologized welfare-ism; (3) "dynamic nature of America's cultural economy"; and (4) demands of corporate culture, which include not just production, but reproduction, i.e., how to bring up one's children as workers while avoiding dysfunctional families (p. 280).
All these explanations have merit, but they strike this reviewer as somewhat tautological. Moskowitz claims that the therapeutic turn began in the 1850s, but arguably its roots are further back. Moreover, therapeutic thinking is not just an American story, as Moskowitz suggests; it is a global phenomenon (though arguably more evident in the United States because of its vast wealth). Her book's themes resonate with those of two other works I have reviewed for Metapsychology, --Micki McGee's Self Help, Inc. and Eva Illouz's Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help. All three address the psychological revolution, but revolutions have deep historical roots requiring elucidation. The longue durée of mental transformations happens to be a particular interest of the reviewer, and this comment does not detract from a thoughtfully organized, jargon-free, and thoroughly researched book (a useful and annotated bibliography is appended). Moskowitz has made a solid contribution to the debate about the psychologization of society.
© 2009 Brian J. McVeigh
Brian J. McVeigh teaches in the East Asian Studies Department at the University of Arizona. An anthropologist and Japan specialist, his latest book is The State Bearing Gifts: Deception and Disaffection in Japanese Higher Education. He is currently writing a book entitled The Propertied Self: Politics, Psychology, and Ownership in Global Perspective.