Before scientists zeroed in on mental illness, we thought poor mothering was the cause of almost every disorder. We assumed that cold, distant mothers created autism, and mothers giving double messages spawned schizophrenia. But later, studies in genetics and neuroscience corrected these misconceptions. It turned out moms weren’t so bad; broken DNA and crossed wiring were more the problem.
Recently, there’ve been thousands of studies on what works and doesn’t in individual psychotherapy treatment. Now we know that for many people, cognitive therapy eases depression, behavioral desensitization cures phobias, and medication helps contain psychoses. As therapists, we look to these methods to help our clients because they’ve been scientifically validated and have proven helpful. But what methods do we use when it comes to treating couples? Let’s look at the history of our field first to understand the context in which scientific studies have been conducted and what they have taught us.
In psychology, it began in the mid-20th century. The 1950s and ’60s were revolutionary years in American intellectual history, a time of turmoil, upheaval, and