Contributed Papers

Psychology/Psychiatry

Presenter 1

Reporting Facts of Insanity around the World: The Certification of Lunacy between Stigma and Standardization (1850s-1890s)

Filippo Maria Sposini

University of Toronto, IHPST

Abstract

The certification of insanity was a medico-legal procedure that became an essential step for civil confinement into lunatic asylums. By the mid-nineteenth century, many jurisdictions followed the so-called "English system of certification" which involved two medical practitioners personally examining the alleged insane at the presence of witnesses. Each doctor was required to fill a standardized certificate which required them to indicate "facts of insanity personally observed" and "facts of insanity communicated by others". Only after the completion of this form, people could be officially certified as insane and be recommended for asylum treatment.
In spite of the medical, legal, and social impact of the certification process, we still know very little about this procedure. My presentation will trace the development of the "English system of certification" for then exploring its international diffusion in North America, Australia, India, and the Caribbean during the second half of the nineteenth century. I will explore how practitioners engaged with their role as "certifiers", how they proposed to depict "facts of insanity", and the legal bearings of their actions. By considering its transnational trajectory, I will suggest that the certification of insanity provides an interesting opportunity for addressing the origins of stigma in mental health and disability. As statutory documents holding legal power, certificates of insanity transformed family concerns into a medical, social, and political issue. Not only personal examination exposed intimate family dynamics to the public, but it also created a written record difficult to erase from bureaucracy and social memory.

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Presenter 2

The First Laboratories for Experimental Psychology in Brazil: An Intersection of Different Historiographies

Arthur Arruda Leal Ferreira

Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)

Hugo Leonardo Rocha Silva da Rosa

Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)

Abstract

In writings on the history of psychology in Brazil, we observe that certain historiographies occur with regularity and certain characteristics according to the specific domain. Brazilian historians such as Venâncio & Cassilla describe the historiography of psychiatry and psychopathology in Brazil with an intensively critical perspective, generally inspired by Foucault's History of Madness. In these works on the history of psychiatry in Brazil there is an absence of any progressive or evolutionary narratives. The mainstream historiography of experimental psychology differs from this exclusively critical approach. Since Boring's classic work (History of Experimental Psychology), there has been a strong tendency (present also in Brazilian texts) to consider the establishment of laboratories as historical landmarks, which distinguish the scientific from the pre-scientific past. Considering the split between the critical and the evolutionary versions of history devoted to different areas of psychology, we can say that the history of psychology in Brazil reveals very different and irreconcilable historiographies with different rhythms, meanings, and colors. The aim of this presentation is to review the historiography through primary and secondary sources related to the description of the first psychological laboratories in Brazil, focusing on some standard questions: How did these early laboratories work? Who frequented them and was observed working there? What was the importance of these places? The exploration of these questions allows us to draw some conclusions about the connections between the aforementioned domains (labs and psychiatric institutions) separated by different historiographies. It is this mixture of colors that we would like to propose as a more symmetrical approach. Perhaps this approach would clearly be presented as a rainbow, combining the bronze instruments with the blue certainty of the men of science and the added iridescence of more infamous men.

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Presenter 3

Tracing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy's Account of Cognitive Distortions

Sahanika Ratnayake

University of Cambridge

Abstract

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the most widespread and well-known school of contemporary psychotherapy. Central to CBT, is it's account of cognitive or thought distortions, which states that mental illness has its basis in certain characteristic patterns of thought, which suffer from various issues that must be rectified.
In this paper, I will trace the historical development of three lines of thought, concerning the nature of the problems that plague these thoughts and how they are to be treated. The first line of thought, popularised by Aaron T. Beck, frequently understood to be the founder of CBT, maintains that the thinking of mentally ill individuals suffers from various epistemic flaws. The Beckian account of CBT takes therapeutic intervention, to consist of rectifying these epistemic issues. The second line, states that the thinking of mentally ill individuals suffers from failures of practical or instrumental reasoning rather than epistemic reasoning. This line of thought has its roots in the work of Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy - a CBT precursor. Here, the emphasis is on improving means-ends reasoning and considering the functioning of the client. The third, most contemporary line of thought, does not articulate the exact problem with distorted patterns of thought but suggests that treatment consists in altering the relationship between an individual and their thoughts rather than engaging with the content of thoughts, as with the preceding interpretations.
Each of these lines of thought are heavily influenced by the landscape of psychotherapy, at the time. For instance, the Beckian account of CBT comes after the fall of psychoanalysis under critiques of its unscientific methodology.
In addition to tracing the historical development, I will consider the alteration of these various takes on CBT's account of cognitive distortions, as they move from the clinical sphere into the mains

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Presenter 4

Rehabilitating the Veteran: Violence, Sensationalism, and Medical Treatment in Post-Civil War America

Laura Elizabeth Smith

University of Arkansas

Abstract

This study examines the perception and treatment of PTSD, violence, and crime committed by veterans after America’s Civil War as well as veterans’ inability to gain proper medical and psychological support. After the conflict, masses of unemployed soldiers, many of whom were incapacitated physically or mentally, poured back into the towns they had left half a decade earlier. Alcohol and drug addiction that began during the war followed veterans home. Combat was psychologically traumatic for some soldiers, and they returned to communities unprepared to deal with veteran misbehavior and mental trauma. Alienated by civilians and authorities that perceived them as violent and suicidal, many veterans were forced into soldiers’ homes, asylums, and prisons that were last resorts for men with no place in society and no options. The administration and operation of soldiers homes and other veteran refuges were inconsistent in their treatment of veteran physical and mental disabilities, and their efforts to first and foremost maintain the safety of the abled community meant that the needs of veterans could go unmet. When veteran violence did occur, it added to the stigma of being a veteran without prompting sufficient reexamination of how these men were treated. 19th century newspaper articles, the published journals and letters of Union and Confederate soldiers, and pamphlets produced for the public document the struggle the US faced in addressing the plight of these men, many of whom needed specialized care. For many veterans, complete medical and psychological readjustment would prove a struggle more complicated and disheartening than the war itself.

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