'Subordination, authority, psychotherapy' : psychotherapy and politics in inter-war Vienna
Title: 'Subordination, authority, psychotherapy' : psychotherapy and politics in inter-war Vienna
Author: FREIS, David
Citation: History of the human sciences, 2017, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 34-53
ISSN: 1461-720X; 0952-6951
This article explores the history of ‘subordination-authority-relation’ (SAR) psychotherapy, a brand of psychotherapy largely forgotten today that was introduced and practised in inter-war Vienna by the psychiatrist Erwin Stransky (1877–1962). I situate ‘SAR’ psychotherapy in the medical, cultural and political context of the inter-war period and argue that – although Stransky’s approach had little impact on historical and present-day debates and reached only a very limited number of patients – it provides a particularly clear example for the political dimensions of psychotherapy. In the early 20th century, the emerging field of psychotherapy was largely dominated by Freudian psychoanalysis and its Adlerian and Jungian offshoots. Psychotherapists’ relations with academic psychiatry were often uneasy, but the psychodynamic schools succeeded in establishing independent institutions for training and treatment. However, as this article shows, the gulf between mainstream psychiatry and psychotherapy was not as wide as many histories of the psy-disciplines in the early 20th century suggest. In inter-war Vienna, where these conflicts raged most fiercely, Stransky’s ‘SAR’ psychotherapy was intended as an academic psychiatrist’s response to the challenge posed by the emerging competitors. Moreover, Stransky also proposed a political alternative to the existing psychotherapeutic schools. Whereas psychoanalysis was a liberal project, and Adlerian individual psychology was closely affiliated with the socialist movement, ‘SAR’ psychotherapy with its focus on authority, subordination and social hierarchy tried to translate a right-wing, authoritarian understanding of society into a treatment for nervous disorders.
First Published April 20, 2017
Files in this item
There are no files associated with this item.