ENCOUNTERING AMERICA by Jessica Grogan

ENCOUNTERING AMERICA

Humanistic Psychology, Sixties Culture, and the Shaping of the Modern Self

KIRKUS REVIEW

Grogan reveals the seminal, but frequently overlooked, influence of the postwar humanistic psychology movement in creating what is sometimes described as today's “therapy culture,” which includes employee retreats, seminars on sensitivity training, the proliferation of support groups and more.

The author traces the movement back to the enhanced role of psychologists during and after World War II, when they worked with the military to profile recruits and deal with problems faced by veterans. They were unwilling to take a back seat to Freudian psychoanalysts, who dominated the practice of psychotherapy, and the empirical behaviorists, who were hegemonic in academic psychology. Pioneers in the field of humanist psychology, such as Abraham Maslow, advocated an alternative approach that was “oriented around ideas of personal growth and the infusion of values” into therapy. Grogan shows how the perception of alienation in the social climate of the 1950s, as exemplified by David Riesman's widely read The Lonely Crowd, supported their critique. At the same time, Carl Rogers revolutionized the practice of nondirective therapy by engaging in a dialogue with patients that emphasized their ability to achieve personal growth. The influence of the movement was enhanced in the ’60s when humanist psychologists initially joined Timothy Leary in endorsing the use of LSD, the encounter-group therapy practiced in California's Esalen Institute, meditation and spiritual practices as valid avenues for self-actualization. The women's liberation movement also owes a debt to humanist psychologists, who pioneered techniques such as consciousness-raising—although Maslow expressed doubts about their goals.

An illuminating cultural history.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-183476-9
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2012




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