Friday, December 28, 2012

Where Statistics are Conspicuous by Absence

It might be very interesting, as a way of assessing cultural trends, if we could get good statistics for a handful of countries—or even just for the United States—on the number of practitioners of psychotherapy by major schools and, of course, over time: say 1900, 1950, and 2000. No such thing. I’ve tried. I’ve arrived here because two such schools came to mind in the last couple of months. One is hypnotherapy, pioneered by the American Milton H. Erikson (1901-1980) and the other logotherapy, the work of the Austrian Viktor Frankl (1905-1997). For me they stand way, way above the rest, but there is a strange commonality between them that I thought I would explore—and report on, most likely on Borderzone—in 2013.

Michelle is now taking a course, sponsored by her hospital, on hypnotherapy. It tickled me pink when I discovered that the course is centered on Milton Erikson’s methods. And as for logotherapy, I’ve known about it since my young adulthood, back when I was marching through the schools: Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian, Eriksonian (no relation to Milton H. above), Horneyan, and then, finally Frankl’s. Frankl’s logotherapy is centered on meaning, and having arrived there, I had arrived—at a genuine theory. I didn’t bother much with the explosive growth of all kinds of therapies thereafter except to read a couple of books by B.F. Skinner the behaviorist.

Here I would note that while we avidly collect statistics on everything to do with money and people (the Economic and Population censuses), culture gets short shrift. I’ve long felt that statistics are a lens into the realm of vast numbers. Concerning psychotherapy, I found two numbers on Wikipedia. One lists the number of schools in 1980 (250) and the number in 1996 (450). The references cited are minimal and essentially impossible to trace. And even finding a coherent listing of such schools, they are quite varied, don’t agree, and list the names of broad categories, not actual schools. Fuzz, fog. Absent  the sharp resolution that statistics offer.

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