Constructing the Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History of Psychotherapy

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In this ground-breaking cultural history of psychotherapy, historian and psychologist Philip Cushman shows how the development of modern psychotherapy is inextricably intertwined with that of the United States and how it has changed the way Americans view events and themselves. By tracing our various definitions of the self throughout history, Cushman reveals that psychotherapy is very much a product of a particular time and placeā€”and that it has been fundamentally complicit in creating many of the ills it seeks to assuage.
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Editorial Reviews

Cushman (California School of Professional Psychology) uses an interpretive historical approach to the cultural history of psychotherapy to show how and why the discipline was created and its role in American life, arguing that its establishment as a social institution may reproduce some of the ills it is meant to heal. He suggests a way to use interpretive methods in the everyday practice of psychotherapy. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Bryce Christensen
Few words in modern speech carry more conjuring power than "self", a power evident in contemporary incantations of self-esteem, self-assertion, self-validation, and self-actualization. Self-talk, however, will never again sound quite the same to readers of Cushman's provocative analysis of American psychotherapy. For what Cushman shows most clearly is that the self has changed from era to era as American culture itself has evolved. The bourgeois Anglo-Saxon self of a conformist nineteenth-century America would scarcely recognize its offspring, the alienated, rebellious self of a chaotic twentieth century. Psychotherapy--the science of healing the self--has likewise metamorphosed in response to cultural and political pressures. As Cushman chronicles the changes in psychotherapy, he also reflects on the ways marketers and politicians have appropriated psychological theory for dubious ends. Even within his discipline, the author uncovers evidence that psychoanalysts have misused Freud's legacy. In particular, he challenges the decision by psychoanalysts of the l920s and 1930s to focus on the individual psyche and not on the social context in which the psyche must live and find meaning. A genuine healing of the self, he concludes, will require a reshaping of the society that gives the self its identity.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780201626438
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 11/11/1994
  • Pages: 430
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 1.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip Cushman, Ph.D., is associate professor at the California School of Professional Psychology, is also in private practice in Oakland, California.
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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Psychotherapy, the Impossible Bridge 1
Ch. 2 Selves, Illnesses, Healers, Technologies 15
Ch. 3 The Self in America 34
Ch. 4 Healing through Self-Domination: Capitalism, the Asylum, the Untamed Female Body, and Freud 91
Ch. 5 Healing through Self-Liberation: Mesmerism and the Enchanted American Interior of the Nineteenth Century 117
Ch. 6 Strange Bedfellows: The Americanization of Psychoanalysis in the Early Twentieth Century 140
Ch. 7 The Road Not Taken: Harry Stack Sullivan, Melanie Klein, and the Location of the Social 159
Ch. 8 Self-Liberation through Consumerism: Post-World War II Object Relations Theory, Self-Psychology, and the Empty Self 210
Ch. 9 Psychotherapy as Moral Discourse: A Hermeneutic Alternative 279
Ch. 10 The Politics of the Self 332
Appendix: The Self in Western Society 357
Notes 389
Index 415
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