Although contemporary, scientific psychology is often recorded from the 1879 CE opening of the first psychological clinic by Wilhelm Wundt, successful attempts to create methods for treating and assessing mental distress existed long before. The oldest recorded approaches were a blend of magical, religious, and medical perspectives.
The oldest examples of such psychological thinkers included the Ancient Hindu/India’s Patañjali, Padmasambhava, Avicenna, Rhazes, and Rumi.
Psychotherapy can be said to have been followed through the eternities, as people received reassurance and psychological counsel from others. Purposeful, theoretically-based psychotherapy was first developed in Ancient India thousands of years ago by Hindu Rishis. Exclusive chapters on counseling are covered in Vedas.
In the early medieval era, the Persian physician and psychological thinker, Rhazes was the chief physician of the Baghdad Bimaristan (Islamic Hospital). He adapted the Hindu knowledge of psychology and propagated it in Persia.
In the West, however, severe mental disorders were generally treated as medical or demonic conditions requiring confinement and punishment until the advent of moral treatment approaches in the 18th century C.E. This brought about a focus on the exclusive possibility of psychosocial intervention—including moral encouragement, reasoning, and group activities—to properly rehabilitate the “insane.”
In the 19th century C.E., one could have ones head checked, literally, using phrenology, the study of the sull shape developed by anatomist Franz Joseph Gall. Other (in)famous treatments included physiognomy—the study of the face shape—and mesmerism, created by Franz Anton Mesmer—intended to relieve psychological distress by using magnets. Phineas Quimby’s “mental healing” technique and Spiritualism, which was very like the modern concept of “positive visualization,” was also popular. By 1832 CE, psychotherapy made its first debut in fiction with John Neal’s story titled “The Haunted Man.
While the early-modern scientific community eventually rejected all of these methods, educational psychologists were also not concerned with severe mental illness forms. That area was already being knowingly addressed by the developing fields of neurology and psychiatry within the asylum movement and moral therapy. It wasn’t until the top of the 19th century C.E. that when Sigmund Freud was first developing his “talking cure” in Vienna, the first scientifically clinical use of psychology began at the University of Pennsylvania to help kids with learning disabilities.
Although clinical psychologists initially focused on psychological assessment, the use of psychotherapy, once the individual domain of psychiatrists, became blended into the profession after the Second World War. Psychotherapy started with the practice of psychoanalysis, the “talking cure” created by Sigmund Freud. Soon afterward, theorists such as Carl Jung and Alfred Adler introduced new conceptions about psychological change and functioning. These and many other scholars helped advance the general orientation called psychodynamic therapy, which involves the many therapies based on Freud’s fundamental principle of making the unconscious conscious.
In the 1920s C.E., behaviorism became the major paradigm and remained so until the 1950 C.E.s. Behaviorism used methods based on operant conditioning theories, social learning, and classical conditioning theory. Major contributors included Hans Eysenck, Joseph Wolpe, and B.F. Skinner. Because behaviorism ignored or denied internal mental activity, this period represents a global slowing of advancement and evolution within the field of psychotherapy.
Wilhelm Reich started to develop body psychotherapy in 1932 C.E.
Beginning in the 1950s C.E., two principal orientations evolved autonomously in response to behaviorism—existential-humanistic therapy and cognitivism. The humanistic movement primarily developed from the Existential theories of writers like Viktor Frankl. and Rollo May. These orientations all focused less on the unconscious and more on promoting holistic, holistic change by developing a genuine, supportive, and empathic therapeutic relationship.
Since the 1970s C.E., other dominant perspectives have been adopted and developed within the field. Perhaps the two most significant have been Systems Therapy, which focuses on group and family dynamics—and Transpersonal psychology, which concentrates on human experience’s spiritual facet. Other critical orientations developed in the last three decades include Somatic Psychology, feminist therapy, applied positive psychology, and Expressive therapy.