June 3, 2011
This coming Monday I’ll begin teaching a short course on “The Thought Leadership of Fred Newman.” Each week, I’ll choose an article or two of Fred’s or Fred’s and mine to present and discuss with participants. I’m hoping this will jump start my work on a new book, which I began thinking and talking about a few months ago. I don’t have a working title for the book yet, barely a concept, and only a few paragraphs. In some way—to be discovered in its writing (that’s how I, at least, write)—the book will take a look at social therapy over the decades, where it came from and where it is now.
Here’s a draft opening paragraph I wrote about four months ago (the last time I worked on the book):
“The other day I took History is the Cure: A Social Therapy Reader off my bookshelf. It’s a book I edited with psychiatrist and social therapist Hugh Polk over twenty years ago, in 1988. It contains essays and articles written in social therapy’s first decade, 1977-1987. I hadn’t looked at this book in a very long time, maybe ten years or more. Social therapy’s creator Fred Newman and I have done a lot of writing since then, and History—self-published, and as far as I know, read by a relative few and never cited—faded in memory. But as I about to launch another effort to share in writing the history and transformations of social therapy—now halfway into its fourth decade—I was curious to see what I and we said back then.”
Among the articles I’ve chosen for the course are some “then” and “now” pairings. One duo includes “The Patient as Revolutionary,” which is the published version of a talk Fred gave at the Interamerican Society of Psychology Congress in Havana in 1986, and “All Power to the Developing,” which is an article by Fred and me that appeared in the Annual Review of Critical Psychology in 2003. Studying the two from the vantage point of our history is fun and challenging. I see a greater sophistication and a bigger picture in the later piece and a directness and immediacy in the first. There’s also, for me, a beautiful continuity of method and humanity.
Early on in “The Patient as Revolutionary” Fred comments that for just about all of his adult life he has devoted his intellectual and practical energies to the study of two things: psychology and revolution. He has been my mentor and friend and collaborator almost from the day we met 35 years ago, and in large part, this is why. I want to share a little bit from this article that I very much like, where Fred is talking about the difference between relating to people as adaptive and relating to people as revolutionaries:
“We’re not talking about whether the patient, client, whatever, becomes politically active. We’re talking about how effectveily we can treat psychopathology if we relate to people as capable of transforming the world—i.e., history—as opposed to relating to people as simply adapting to existing society and its roles. If we change that basic premise, what are the effects, scientifically speaking?”
Re-reading this, I was struck how this question has been thoroughly embedded in and is the tool-and-result of our practice, not only in therapeutic environments but educational and cultural ones as well, in the ensuing decades. And how much more mainstream the premise and question have become among innovators across disciplines and national boundaries.
More to come…