Popularizing American Psychotherapy: The Emmanuel Movement, 1906–1910

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As late as 1907 Americans knew little of psychotherapy. The word itself was virtually nowhere to be found in either professional or popular literature. Talking cures were not talked about. Despite growing medical and cultural awareness of mental suffering, few physicians made any effort to treat such states by appealing to mind. Indeed, for more than 3 decades, American physicians—particularly those who specialized in the treatment of nervous and mental disorders—had scoffed at anything even remotely resembling mental therapeutics. By 1910 this situation changed dramatically. Whereas decades of vigorous internal professional debates had failed to generate a consensus among American physicians and academic psychologists regarding the scientific legitimacy and clinical efficacy of mental therapeutics, in 2 short years the Emmanuel Church Healing Movement had forced both physicians and psychologists to confront squarely and publicly a subject that they had long avoided. Lasting from 1906 to 1910, this popular movement was the primary agent responsible for the efflorescence of psychotherapy in the United States.

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