HENKE2404U English - Free topic D: Curing the mind: History of psychotherapy in the modern world

Volume 2024/2025



Does everyone need a therapist? Who is psychotherapy for, and how did its scope grow to regularly include those who do not suffer from any mental illness? This course aims to cover the development of modern modes of psychotherapeutic intervention - from hypnosis and suggestion to rational persuasion, re-education and work therapy, bibliotherapy and film psychotherapy, psychoanalysis and cognitive and behavioural approaches. It explores how ideas about the mind and its plasticity have changed in response to broader historical, political and social contexts, and how they shaped efforts to cure or ameliorate psychological pathology and suffering. In this vein, the course considers not only historical documents, but also cultural texts – literature and film, in particular - that inform and are informed by psychological paradigms. We can think, for example, about literature’s shifting depictions of character psychology, as well as the methods of interpretation that literary scholars have shared with psychologists. We are also interested in how different forms of psychotherapy were popularized in film. The course brings the historical development of psychotherapeutic interventions in dialogue with biological psychiatry and psychopharmaceutical revolutions, asking how these different models of the brain (and of ‘human nature’) have co-existed and interacted throughout the modern period. Furthermore, the course reflects on the rise of psychotherapy as one of the most important health-related disciplines of the 20th century, asking how ideas and narratives of modern selfhood fostered the belief in the supreme importance of attending to the health of the mind. The course offers a global historical overview with a focus on the English-speaking world.

Elizabeth Lunbeck, The psychiatric persuasion: Knowledge, gender and power in modern America

Edward Shorter, A History of Psychiatry from the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac)

Anne Harrington, Mind fixers: Psychiatry’s troubled search for the biology of mental illness

Andreas Meyer, Sites of the unconscious

Jonathan Metzl, The Protest Psychosis: How schizophrenia became a black disease

Dagmar Herzog, Cold War Freud

Lectures, discussion seminars and student-led presentations
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353.5
  • Total
  • 409.5
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline January 6th 2025
Type of assessment details
Student presentation (ppt and 5-page summary), essay (16-20 pages)
Exam registration requirements

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Criteria for exam assesment