The shock of the new! The introduction of physical methods of treatment in psychiatry in Britain and Europe, 1922-1944

Professor I Nicol Ferrier, Dr Ingrid M. Daey Ouwens, Professor Steven Jones, Dr Lara Rzesnitzek

75 minutes


June 2022

Congress webinar


The 100th anniversary of the introduction of malarial therapy in psychiatric hospitals in Britain falls in July 2022. Malarial therapy was initially developed in Vienna in 1917 to treat General Paralysis of the Insane (GPI), heralding a conceptual shift from psychological towards physical treatment of mental illness. Insulin sleep therapy, convulsive therapies and ECT, and psycho-surgery were later introduced as ‘big’ advances, yet seemingly with little empirical basis. This session will introduce and highlight some of the major questions around the physical treatments in use in the period 1922-1944, which are formative to modern concepts of pharmacotherapy and the contemporary use of physical treatments. The history of psychiatry has the potential to facilitate learning helpful to the development of the professional values, actions, and aspirations fundamental to becoming a ‘dedicated doctor’ – see ‘History in the Curriculum?’, BJPsych 2020; – We anticipate that attendees at our session will gain awareness and knowledge of the psychiatric treatments of an important earlier historical period, together with opportunity to reflect compassionately on the experience of the patients of the time, and to consider contextually the ethics of the introduction of new treatments into clinical practice prior to today’s ethical and regulatory frameworks.

Chair: Professor I Nicol Ferrier, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Newcastle University

How to manage a pandemic with Malaria Fever Therapy? General Paralysis of the Insane in the early 20th century - Dr Ingrid M. Daey Ouwens, Stichting Epilepsie Instellingen Nederland

Convulsive and electroconvulsive therapy, a UK perspective from 1922-1944 - Professor Steven Jones, University of Chester, and Mr Colin Jones

Electroconvulsive therapy and the late introduction of psychosurgery in Germany - Dr Lara Rzesnitzek, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany


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