eISSN: 2450-5722
ISSN: 2450-5927
Journal of Health Inequalities
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vol. 5
Original paper

Creating a medical speciality: psychotherapy in the post-war Soviet healthcare system

Aleksandra M. Brokman

  1. Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom
J Health Inequal 2019; 5 (2): 203-209
Online publish date: 2019/12/30
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The post-war period saw renewed growth of psychotherapy as a discipline in the Soviet Union. More physicians were trained in its methods, its enthusiasts became more vocal, and the treatment was gradually introduced into the practice of more and more medical institutions throughout the country. This process culminated in 1985, when psychotherapy was finally added to the list of medical specialities, gaining the official recognition sought by its practitioners. This paper explores the efforts to popularise psychotherapy in the post-war USSR and to establish it as a new medical speciality in the Soviet healthcare system. It argues that, in contrast to their colleagues in the United States, Soviet psychotherapists did not seek to establish their discipline as a distinct profession but as a branch of medicine. For this purpose, they paid a lot of attention to physiological mechanisms of psychotherapy, attempting to present it as just another medical procedure and to free it from associations with mysticism or unscientific notions ascribed to psychotherapies practised in North America and Western Europe, particularly to psychoanalysis. These efforts were largely successful; however, the improved status was not enough to establish psychotherapy as a standard treatment in Soviet medical institutions. Its growth was hindered by the shortages of resources and personnel in the Soviet healthcare system, which could not afford a large investment in psychotherapeutic care. Consequently, the availability of psychotherapy remained limited even as the discipline gained status within the medical community and the support of the healthcare authorities.

history, psychotherapy, Soviet Union

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