Monday, August 29, 2011

A Healer for Sure

If you define healers as people who carry out activities to help people, Kurt Lewin should be included.  His biography, The Practical Theorist, by Alfred Marrow, tells about his life and thought.  He worked at Iowa, where Julian Rotter was his student, and where my daughter lived, which is one of the reasons that I got interested.  It also rounds out the biographers of the early Gestalt Psychologists, for me.  Anyway, Lewin did studies of what could be done to help people meet their goals at work.  He did action research involving how groups made decisions and got along with each other.  He was active in the WWII efforts.  He used a Jordan Curve to represent a person in his or her environment.  I was never sure about how to pronounce his name.  It turns out that he always said "La Veen", but when his children were always asked why it wasn't "Lou In", he started saying it the latter way.  A saying is attributed to him - there is nothing so practical as a good theory.  I'd say read The Practical Theorist, and if you want to, get it now on line, because there aren't a lot of copies available!

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Since school is about to start, I'm going to shelve Anti-Oedipus and Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari Intersecting Lives (no capital letters on the dust jacket) for now.  Anti-Oedipus was kind of a big deal when it first came out.  I've read just the first two sections.  They discuss schizophrenic individuals, although one wonders how the diagnoses would be different these days.  They talk about some use of medications at the Laborde Clinic, but things are so much different today in that regard.  An important idea in the book is the degree to which social/governmental/institutional factors influence behavior.  It is really hard to get used to the terminology they use, but probably worth it to get a picture of this point of view.  It is interesting to see how these authors, and the early Gestalt Psychologists bring in the ideas of philosophers.  Nietzsche comes up often in Anti-Oedipus.  Anyway, Felix Guattari and the people he worked with were important Healers around the 1960s in France.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Talented Writer and Therapist

Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest is about a lot of things.  I'll focus on the insight it gives into the way in which Dr. R worked as a healer.  He both prescribed medication and carried out talk therapy.  The combination appeared to be an important part of what made it work.  A colleague described him to the author as not being a blank slate, but instead reacting as a person to the input given to him in therapy.  After he died, people he had worked with described his ongoing influence on their lives.  A letter by a patient other than than the author of the book described him as helping people by "lending his humanity, and leaving no doubt that they were understood."  The above link for the book's name is to the Goodreads page for the book.  Threre are about 75 reviews, many of which are from women.  The rationale for the one star rating makes me glad that nobody reads my book.  The link for the author is to her blog.  It's strange to have that much access and connection to an author.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Mentality of Gestalt Psychologists

The title for  the post is, of course, a knock off of Kohler's The Mentality of Apes.  I'm two thirds of the way through the book.  The descriptions of how the chimps got their food in the experiments are fun to read as well as educational.  You develop a liking for the "subjects" of the research, and can tell that the Kohlers liked them, too.  There is also the edge of the ethics of animal research, of course.  The main point of the book is that the chimps acted with "insight."  The question of individual differences between the chimps is interesting as well.  Some of the phrases used to describe what the chimps did were: "unhesitatingly pilfered", "was never uncertain as to where he had to put it", and "the expression of discouraged desire."  Principles of Gestalt Psychology by Koffka is also an interesting read, even after all this time.  Finally, I've got Productive Thinking by Wertheimer. When I'm finished with those, and books about the four major people involved, I'll be ready to write.  When I learned psychology, this way of thinking was not emphasized, so it is interesting to supplement it now.

Monday, August 8, 2011

APA Divisions and Division Presidents

I visited the web sites for all of the Divisions of the American Psychological Association, and also web pages associated with all of the presidents of the Divisions.  It gives you a good idea about what psychologists in the US are doing.  The newsletters for each division are available on the page describing the Division.  Here is the latest newsletter for clinical psychology.  I'm using this information for the Introduction for Healers and Feelings.  Here is the publication list for Nancy Eisenberg, President of the Developmental Psychology Division.  I see the Divisions as falling into three categories.  There are six which involve "housekeeping" issues such as teaching psychology, international psychology, state associations, and the history of psychology.  The other 48 seem to cover subareas of psychology and interests of psychologists in equal portion.  It is tough to classify some between these two groups, and you would get disagreement as to which category a particular Division falls into. Here is the list of Divisions, and here is my categorization:
Subareas of psychology: experimental, comparative, developmental, personality/social (dk why these are combined!), clinical, consulting, industrial/organizational, educational, school, counseling, engineering, rehabilitation, consumer, theoretical/philosophical, behavior analysis, community, psychopharmacology/substance abuse, humanistic, environmental, health, neuropsychology, media, sports, child/adolescent clinical
Interests/Practice Areas: measurement/statistics, social issues, aesthetics/arts, public service, military, aging, psychotherapy, hypnosis, intellectual/developmental disabilities, women, religion, child/family policy, psychoanalysis, law, families, LGBT, ethnic/minority, peace, group theory/psychotherapy, men, pediatrics, pharmacotherapy, disaster/trauma, addiction
If you are interested in psychology, investigate the APA; there are more resources there than you can imagine.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gestaltism or Processism?

One thing that has held me back, I think, from appreciating Gestalt Psychology is the name.  Is it a whole separate psychology from traditional psychology?  What does gestalt mean, anyway?  Google Translate gives seven (!) options as translations for gestalt: form, shape, frame, build, figure, character, and person.  Although people use the word gestalt ("You've got to look at the whole gestalt!") it doesn't have an intrinsic meaning for me like a word in English does.  At the very least, I've got to translate it in my mind.  I have a love for words that end with -ism (see Peter Saint-Andre's Ism book).  The ideas of the Gestalt Psychologists make up an emphasis, a theory, and an approach.   Then, of course, there is the problem of Gestalt Therapy.  It is certainly influenced by Gestalt Psychology, but by other theories as well.  So, I'm going to think of Gestalt Psychology as similar to structuralism, functionalism, and behaviorism, and call it processism, in my own mind.  The word processism is used in Philosophy, but so are the other ones.  I know that process doesn't capture all of what Wertheimer, Lewin, Koffka, Kohler and the others were trying to say, but it is the best that I can come up with.  Does anyone have any other ideas?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dr. Rotter's Psychodynamics Class

I've got notes from a class called Psychodynamics, given by Julian Rotter at UCONN during the spring semester of 1973.  I assume that you weren't in the class, or have misplaced your notes in the last 38 years, so I'll share some of the information.  He talked about field theory ala Kurt Lewin, which he learned directly from the source.    He talked a lot about Alfred Adler's brand of therapy.  He talked a lot less than you would expect about Locus of Control, given how much play it has gotten in the field.  Three problems that he talked about leading to the need for therapy were using generalized expectancies rather than those relevant to the situation, valuing reinforcements that are inappropriate or not available in the situation, and lacking the skills needed to obtain the reinforcements which are available.  Here is a short summary of his Social Learning Theory.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Boy Feelings vs. Girl Feelings

Gender differences/similarities is one of the fascinating issues in psychology.  My general blog has an entry on gender differences in thinking, which you can access by clicking on these words.  When I was seeing people for counseling/therapy, it always seemed important to think about whether a male of female therapist would be best for any particular client/patient. As a school psychologist, one thinks a lot about the opportunities available for all students in the classroom.  This web site has biographies of early psychologists who were women.  It is interesting to see how they surpassed the issues of gender differences in education at the time.  I always think of Alice James in this context.  For the book Healers and Feelings I'm determined to include more women than the one (!) I included in Thinkers and Thinking (here's the Goodreads page for it).  Right now, I'm thinking of Psyche Cattell and Hedda Bolgar.  Any other suggestions?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gestalt Psychology In Living Form

I am reading up on Gestalt Psychology for the Introduction to Healers and Feelings.  Here's an interesting fact about some of the founders.  Between 1880 and 1886, Drs. Kohler, Koffka and Wertheimer were born within 800 miles of each other in an array, north to south, from Tallinn, Estonia to Berlin, Germany, to Prague, Czechoslovakia.  They worked together and apart to learn how the form and relationship between objects and ideas makes a difference.  When Kohler died in 1967, in Enfield, NH, their places of death were aligned in the same way, within 300 miles in the eastern US.  Koffka died in Northampton, MA and Wertheimer in New Rochelle, NY.  Does anyone else think that this is remarkable?  I'd be happy to get comments that would point me towards important resources for Gestalt Psychology.