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Early and Current Schools of Psychotherapy

The early and current schools of psychotherapy are central aspects that help us to understand where psychotherapy came from as well as what has led us to where we are today.

During the ninth century, Al-Razi birthed psychotherapy and was a medical expert (Claude, 2015, p. 111). After that came several others such as Franz Joseph Gall and collaborator Johann Spurzheim, Franz Anton Mesmer, and Phineas Quimby before some of the more well-known people such as Sigmund Freud and Pavlov.

Phrenology And Physiognomy

Phrenology and physiognomy were created by Franz Joseph Gall and collaborator Johann Spurzheim. Phrenology is examining and feeling around the head or skull to find out what is wrong psychologically.

Phrenologists would feel along the skulls with their hands to search for irregularities such as enlargement or dents (Parssinen, 1974). Gall believed that the brain was constructed of different organs that would determine the personality of each individual.

As seen in a 1894 publication by Wells, several different illustrations characterized differences in personality by the physical appearance of the individual drawn.

There were three regions of the skulls which were the spiritual region, region of intellect, and region of prosperity, (Wells, 1894, p. 28). These were then broken down into organs of the brain that determined personality and psychological functionalities.


Mesmerism, also known as animal magnetism, was fathered by Franz Anton Mesmer. It is based on the vitalist theory or vitalism.

Vitalists believe that living organisms, “contain some non-physical element or are governed by different principles than are inanimate things,” (Bechtel & Richardson, 1998).

The theory was that there is a certain magnetism inside of all of us comparable to spirit.

Initially Mesmer thought his treatments could be accomplished by literally running a magnet over parts of a patient’s body.

Soon after he used a different method which would mostly consist of theatrics and sometimes even placing his hands on a female patient or massaging in a sensuous manner (Rich & Gielen, 2015, p.34).

Ridicule eventually fell upon this early method of psychotherapy during the late 1700’s. However, inspiration from his animal magnetism inspired what is known today as hypnotism.

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