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Hist Psychol. 2005 May;8(2):176-93.

The making of contemporary American psychiatry, part 1: patients, treatments, and therapeutic rationales before and after World War II.

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Health Services Research Center, Neuropsychiatric Institute, University of California, Los Angeles.


This article, the 1st in a 2-part series, uses patient records from California's Stockton State Hospital to unearth the midcentury roots of contemporary American psychiatry. These patient records allow the authors to examine 2 transformations: the post-World War II expansion of psychiatry to include the diagnosis and treatment not only of psychotic patients but also of nonpsychotic patients suffering from problems of everyday living, and the 1950s introduction of the first psychotropic drugs, which cemented the medical status of these new disorders, thus linking a new therapeutic rationale to biological understandings of disease. These transformations laid the groundwork for a contemporary psychiatry characterized by voluntary outpatient care, pharmacological treatment of a wide range of behaviors and distress, and a doctor-patient relationship and cultural acceptance of disease that allow psychiatric patients to identify themselves as consumers.

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