The Healing Nature of Communion: Scottish Psychoanalysis, R.D. Laing, and Therapeutic Communities

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Abstract

This paper explores the theological and historical significance of communion in Scottish psychoanalysis as it influences the life and work of R.D. Laing. Particular attention is paid to Laing’s conceptualization of communion as crucial in working with individuals suffering from schizophrenia. Specific case examples are culled from Laing’s memoir Wisdom, Madness, and Folly: The Making of a Psychiatrist. Following Laing’s work, communing with the other is argued as the essential precondition for healing as embodied in the work of some therapeutic communities, where physically communing, or being-with patients, is the impetus for psychological healing. Loren Mosher’s Soteria House, influenced by the therapeutic communities of R.D. Laing and the Philadelphia Association, is examined as an application of the communion paradigm to psychological treatment.

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