Historical Background of Counseling

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Historical background of counseling

Historically, guidance & counseling emerged as a synthesis of ideas & practices derived from religion ( search for spiritual meaning/ identity; concepts like "pastoral care"), C19th philosophy ( concept of the "unconscious mind" - in fact, pre Freudian/ philosophical in origin), the Arts ( self-expression through performance, literature, autobiography, journalism, poetry, plastic arts, music etc. ), and the needs of people to maintain & promote individualism/ sense of autonomous selfhood in the face of large bureaucratic institutions & an increasingly depersonalized, alienating urban industrial society. To some extent, they were substitutes for traditional community life & religion: in a more secular age of mass urban societies, counseling offered ways for individuals to "be known" and to "be heard". Key figures included: the Dutch physicians Van Renterghem & Van Eaden - "Clinic of Suggestive Psychotherapy", Amsterdam, est. 1887, and JJ Gasner & Anton Mesmer (C18th Austria) who popularized "Animal Magnetism" (aka "Mesmerism"), & opened the door to the modern study/ application of hypnosis; a term coined by Scottish physician J Braid. These early "hypnotherapists" were well aware of unconscious thoughts/ motivations, & used "mesmeric trances" to open areas of mind not accessible during normal waking consciousness. During the 1880s the French physicians Charcot & Janet used hypnosis to treat "hysterical" patients. More generally, "Mesmerism"/ hypnosis was one of the great popular cultural fads of the Victorian period: a "Golden Age" for stage hypnosis (very popular in Music Hall shows etc.), and many public figures were very interested in hypnotism, notably the novelists Charles Dickens (a keen amateur magician, & enthusiastic hypnotist) and Wilkie Collins. In parallel with this was the Victorian belief in "Self Help" (Samuel Smiles et al), plus (by the early C20th) the emerging "behaviorist" ideas of...
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