The healing power of words: psychotherapy in the USSR, 1956-1985

Brokman, Aleksandra (2018) The healing power of words: psychotherapy in the USSR, 1956-1985. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis examines the growth of psychotherapy as a discipline in the Soviet Union between 1956 and 1985, looking at the types of treatment that existed in this period, the tasks that psychotherapy was to perform according to physicians who promoted it, and their efforts to establish it as a distinct medical speciality and popularise it within the Soviet healthcare system. It looks at how different challenges encountered by the promoters of psychotherapy influenced its practice and the discourse around it, and how it was shaped by a broader political, social and cultural context of the USSR. It demonstrates that psychotherapy after Stalin was not stagnant but developed into a diverse field fuelled by enthusiasm of its practitioners who, while sticking to methods that by mid-twentieth century lost popularity in the West, gave them new theoretical underpinnings, constantly worked to modify and improve them, and supplemented them by new ideas and approaches. The result was a unique form of psychotherapy characterised by a physiological language, a specific view of the human mind and body and an unusually broad understanding of its tasks. This thesis analyses the legitimising strategies employed by psychotherapists to present their discipline as both scientifically substantiated and useful to the Soviet society, showing that it was envisaged not only as a strictly therapeutic method but also as a potentially universal auxiliary treatment and as a means of prophylaxis. It examines various aspects of Soviet psychotherapy such as its goals, links to physiology, emphasis on human self-perfection, embrace of placebo as a legitimate form of therapy and the blurring of the boundary between therapy, prophylaxis and conversation implicit in its theory, seeking to understand what psychotherapy was for its Soviet practitioners and how it came to be conceptualised in this particular way.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Users 9280 not found.
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2018 09:39
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2021 01:01


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