Pierre Janet and the history of psychological treatments

I was re-reading an old (1919 original) book by Pierre Janet. Marvellous stuff ahead of his time. He stood back from the factions, disciplines & disciples, and in-fighting and tried to see the big picture…  I show the index of his book below in photos and some commentary before that…

Part of the history I paint is that the people in Freud’s time and before were getting cases which were new (thanks to modernity and capitalism) and they didn’t know how to handle these cases because they were not physiological. So they were actually all talking to each other more then (turn of the 20th Century) and visiting each other’s clinics to see what they were all trying and what worked: Janet, Charcot, Pinel, the Nancy School, Breuer, Freud, etc.  These were symptoms they had not seen before so they were in an awkward situation of making up treatments from nothing, now that their medical knowledge was of no use.  You can see this in the way the early Freud was so hesitant in what he wrote, and that he often mentioned these other practitioners then (later it was only his disciples he mentioned).

But careers eventually took over and they all stopped talking to each other and started territorial disputes… A pattern which continues today in full force… One of the biggest obstacles today to good treatment of symptoms…

[And as sociologist Arnold Rose wrote: what a pity these new cases were given to medical people…]

Here below are Janet’s headings from Volume 1. You cannot notice by the titles alone but our therapy methods have not really changed much since then…

1. I like “Medical moralization” which means the physician tries to talk the person into changing, by moralizing about the consequences. Not much different now in 2017 (especially public health models) but current therapists have less authority than these medicos did back then… so they need to be sneakier…

2. “Using their automatisms” is mostly about using CBT and other similar methods to find out the patient’s thoughts and then attempt to change or block their thoughts (=cognitions=CBT)

3. And he calls Freud’s methods (which were new) “Treatment by mental liquidation” !! Where they started taking trauma seriously.

4. “Philosophical methods of treatment” would include RET, as Ellis tries to talk the person out of their problems logically and with arguments.

5. And notice that “modernity & capitalism” were bringing into these early clinics new symptoms of generalized anxieties and the effects of our competitive urge to work, work, work! So there are two large sections in Janet’s book on treatment by resting and not producing, and on isolation (from the new hoards of strangers in our modern lives). The treatments include ones like mindfulness and meditation…

6. And modernity was also bringing in new symptoms of ‘hysteria’, mostly among women, and they also needed isolation and rest from the patriarchy, especially from the father of the house (now patriarchy is more from male strangers in society and bureaucracies than in this earlier era).


Janet 2Janet 3Janet 4Janet 1Janet 2


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