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February 28, 1977

The History of Psychotherapy: From Healing Magic to Encounter

JAMA. 1977;237(9):904. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270360066030

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Probably in every culture, in every age, emotionally troubled people have sought relief through specially skilled persons in their own group. Whether the sufferers regarded themselves as physically ill, afflicted by hostile spirits (supernatural or human), or mentally ill, they consulted some type of professional healer—magician, priest, physician, psychologist. The methods of treatment have varied in different places and in different times, and even today there is no agreement as to the best method to help the emotionally disturbed.

In the History of Psychotherapy, Ehrenwald traces the development of different procedures, based on different theories of the cause of the disturbance. He classifies the avenues of mental healing as "1) Magic or the Quest for Omnipotence; 2) Religion or the Quest for Salvation; 3) Science or the Quest for Knowledge and Mastery." He portrays each by several lengthy excerpts from the writings of representative practitioners. The final section he calls