Psychology (PSYC) 630

Talking Cures: The Evolution of Psychotherapy (Revision 3)


Psychology 630 is a study of the past history and emerging trends in psychotherapy. Before doing this, however, we will briefly trace the development of human change therapy from the beginning of the third millennium BCE to our modern and post-modern eras. We will see that for as long as we have had written forms of documentation, more than five millennia, people have recognized and been concerned about mental health issues. And it is reasonable to assume that the same concern existed even before a written record was available to substantiate it.

Our approach in this course will be interdisciplinary. You are encouraged to use the knowledge and insights that you have gained through your studies in areas other than psychology to interpret course material and to tackle the research assignments.

This course assumes that you have some historical background in the area of psychology. Supplemental readings are available to assist you in filling in any important gaps and to provide additional information to assist you in developing research papers on certain topics you may choose.

Course Objectives

This exploration of the history and development of psychotherapy is designed to help students achieve the following objectives:

  • understand the origins of psychotherapy's central concepts from an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • recognize the cross-disciplinary intellectual foundation upon which psychoanalysis and subsequently all of psychotherapy theory and practice have been constructed
  • appreciate the key role of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) in the development of psychoanalysis and the formalizing of psychotherapy into a discipline
  • recognize the important roles of his predecessors, collaborators, and followers in developing the field of psychotherapy, and identify the current directions in psychotherapy that derive, at least in part, from their respective ideas
  • outline the contribution of the psychoanalytic ego psychologists and follow their ideas through to their current manifestations in modern European psychotherapies.
  • be aware of the rationalist foundation of the psychoanalysis (e.g. gestalt, existential and humanistic) as well as the empiricist foundation of North American psychotherapies (e.g. behavioral, rational-emotive and cognitive-behavioral), and be able to trace influences of the major contributors to both streams of thought.
  • explore the evolution of the role of will from St. Augustine through its apparently contradictory bifurcation into both determinist (e.g. behaviorist) and non-determinist (e.g. humanistic) streams of thought.
  • identify the basic differences between naïve, radical and neo-behaviorist theories and recognize what each has contributed to contemporary behavior therapy.
  • explain the similarities and differences between rational-emotive and cognitive- behavioral therapies.
  • understand how humanistic psychology evolved from existential psychology and the rationalist tradition of thought.
  • recognize the current Zeitgeist which has informed the development of postmodern therapies.
  • appreciate the fundamental differences in mindset which underlie Western and Eastern psychotherapies
  • imagine the possibilities for the integration of various Western psychotherapy models in the future
  • explain the difficulties and the possibilities of integrating Western and Eastern psychotherapeutic approaches
  • develop some awareness of the major postmodern therapies and the significant ways in which they differ from the earlier generation of therapies, whatever the “camp”
  • consider the far-reaching implications that our current and ever-growing knowledge of brain biology has in affecting our understanding of human change theory

Student Evaluation

To receive credit for this course, students must participate in the online activities, successfully complete the assignments, and achieve a final mark of at least 60 per cent. Students should be familiar with the Master of Arts—Interdisciplinary Studies grading system. Please note that it is students' responsibility to maintain their program status. Any student who receives a grade of "F" in one course, or a grade of "C" in more than one course, may be required to withdraw from the program.

The following table summarizes the evaluation activities and the credit weights associated with them.

Course Activity Weighting
Essay 1 20%
Essay 2 30%
Essay 3 40%
Participation 10%
Total 100%

Course Materials


Registration in this course includes an electronic textbook. For more information on electronic textbooks, please refer to our eText Initiative site.

Corsini, Raymond J., & Wedding, Danny (Eds.). (2014). Current psychotherapies (10th ed.).

A print version of the eText may be available for purchase from the publisher through a direct-to-student link provided on the course website; you can also acquire the textbook on your own if you wish.

Athabasca University Online Materials

Course Home Page: You will find Course Information at the top of the course home page. You will find your assignments and links to submit your work to your professor on the course home page.

Athabasca University Library: Students are encouraged to browse the Library's Web site to review the Library collection of journal databases, electronic journals, and digital reference tools:

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 3, October 13, 2016.