Social Psychotherapy - Historical Insight


The attribution of social work as a treating profession and the understanding of social therapeutic treatment was advocated in Germany by Alice Salomon, who published a book in 1926 with the title of Social Diagnosis taken from Richmond. She was directly influenced by Richmond's work. At that time, social work was marked by the transition of the poor system to professional care, which led to a "(...) striking[n: A. R] development of methods and assistance (...)" (Geißler - Piltz 2005: 133). In connection with the changing view of the genesis of social problems, Salomon spoke of social therapy. (cf. ibid.) With social diagnosis, she pursued the goal of gaining insights into the distress of clients. The double focus of an intra- and interpersonal perspective, the holistic view of the human being (bio-psycho-social model) as well as the inclusion of social influencing factors, e.g. through social inequality, were a matter of course for Salomon. The concept of social therapy was given a psychotherapeutic slant and further development of Salomon's social diagnosis by Vronsky and the psychoanalyst Kronfeld. (cf. Deloie 2011: 52) They integrated psychoanalytic insights and elements such as the social anamnesis, personality research, the recording of the interaction between the client's personality and other elements of life, and research into the composition of his or her life forces. (cf. Müller 2006: 94 ; Deloie 2011: 52). May as one of the representatives of psychoanalytic social work is "(...) one of the few scientific representatives of social work outside the >>movement<< clinical social work, deals with the relationship of a therapeutic concept and social work and does not negate this connection like other representatives of social work." (cf. Deloie 2011: 54) In the post-war period, psychoanalytically oriented individual case assistance was focused on from the USA. Thus, Richmond's "(...) (Social) Casework (Soziale Einzelfallhilfe or Social Individual Help) with the elements of Social Diagnostics and Social Therapy (...)" (cf. Deloie 2011: 23), which is based on a "(...) psychosocial approach, i.e. the interweaving of individual and environmental factors, referred to as the >>person-in-environment<< perspective [.]" (ibid.), an important aspect in the concept of clinical social work. In particular, Viefhues' effort demonstrates the need for a treatment pillar that is broadened to include the social perspective in addition to medicine. He was of the opinion that social workers essentially had a superior ability to psycho-social intervention compared to doctors. According to his conception, social workers should undergo a qualification as 'health workers', standardised according to the training norms of psychotherapy, and thereby acquire an autonomous professional competence equal to that of doctors. (cf. Viefhues 1969/ cf. Crefeld 2002: 11 f.) With a view to the competent provision of therapy and rehabilitation for the mentally ill, at the same time the Commission of Experts in its Psychiatry Enquiry had spoken out in favour of a corresponding therapeutic qualification for social workers. (cf. Crefeld 2007: 113) In the USA, too, clinical social work, which has its roots in casework in 1920, has developed into highly professional treatment social work through various influences and socio-political movements such as the Mental Health Act, the Civil Rights Movement and the War of Poverty. (cf. Deloie 2011: 42) - The underlying theories and concepts such as developmental psychology, psychoanalytic illness theory, stress theory, behavioural theory, communication theory, systems theory, the concept of "diversity in social science and work practice" and the "person-in-environment" approach make the dual focus on the intra- and interpersonal phenomena of the social psychotherapeutic treatment approach clear.