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Alternative Therapies: Sociodrama, Nude Therapy, Primal Scream, Psychedelic  

Erika Dyck and Emmanuel Delille

Alternative therapies are sometimes associated with non-biological approaches, or practices that do not undergo rigorous testing or produce consistently repeatable results. In the 1970s, some alternative therapies also openly embraced spiritual dimensions that directly conflicted with a Western bio-medical paradigm, placing them within a category of new age medicine, suggesting that such therapies were both eclectic and outside the boundaries of orthodox clinical care. The timing and location of these therapies reveals a particular context that gave rise to treatments seeking non-orthodox approaches, and arguably for a set of conditions that also emerged out of a Cold War context of affluence, dissatisfaction, and cultural anxiety. Some of these alternative therapies overlapped, with founders and consumers borrowing principles from different therapies to produce an approach that itself might be considered alternative to orthodox or mainstream western bio-medical practice. Situated predominantly on the American west coast, in California, these alternative therapies are illustrative of a regional culture of therapy. One, in particular, that embraced elements of radicalism alongside a collision of individualistic and collective approaches to care and responsibility. This article examines four such therapies: psychedelics, primal scream, nude therapy, and sociodrama. It is argued that beyond the inherent differences among them and their common flirtations with orthodox biomedicine, these four sets of practices are also historically significant for what they reveal about the place of psychology as a discipline after the Second World War. With each of these therapies, their history reveals a tension with psychoanalysis that attempts to redefine the relationship between the therapist and the patient. Although none of these therapies endured in their original form into the 21st century, revisiting this history offers insight into the changing state of psychotherapy in the latter half of the 20th century, and a focus on alternative therapies helps to elucidate some of the professional and cultural tensions that fuelled subsequent changes in the therapeutic landscape.