If you are going to study change, logically speaking you would do well to begin with psychotherapy. More than one leading psychotherapist has defined their work in psychotherapy explicitly as “the study of change.” CIEPP, the Centre for Interactional and Experimental Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy at Interchange Research, has long been devoted to applying our scientific findings to creating more effective treatment for psychological, emotional and behavioural disorders. In fact, the earliest breakthroughs in our own applied work were achieved in the psychiatric field, first in inpatient treatment, and later in outpatient psychotherapy.
Throughout the 20th Century, and especially right up until the early 1990s, there was a long, richly diverse and distinguished tradition of innovative, highly creative, experimental treatment approaches being trialled and developed empirically within psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and psychiatry, both in groundbreaking inpatient and outpatient settings.
In all three areas (which of course often overlapped in practice), the most enduringly important of these experimental approaches, in our own view, were those often explicitly characterized—and all can be justly classified—as being based on “the interactional view” of human behaviour and mental life, a view which first came to the fore in Central Europe between the wars during the so-called Weimar Renaissance. It was also a view which—thanks in part to Allied war work, in part to the flight of clinicians from Europe to anglophone countries with the rise of Nazism, and in part to the dramatic clinical successes of the new therapeutic orientation, found itself for a time in the ascendant within anglophone clinical work during the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, particularly in America. This work had taken a remarkably wide range of forms over a 70-year period, with impressive, often extraordinary clinical results to show for it.
Our Interchange team played an influential, pioneering, seminal role in some of the more radical of this work in experimental psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, and especially in the development of novel forms of effective brief psychotherapy.
We have continued ever since to be devoted to clinical practice and clinical teaching in the field, but above all to research. Our overall aim, then as now, has been to make the treatment of psychiatric illness faster and more effective, and thereby, at the same time, to contribute to reducing the glaring mental health disparities in contemporary society.
The influence of the interactional view in its pure form began to wane beginning in the early 1990s along with other, related experimental psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic approaches, for a host of adventitious reasons—mostly political, economic, and bureaucratic—and its decline in influence was hastened further by an uncongenial change in the Zeitgeist, which became increasingly more hospitable to pharmacological nostrums and controlled clinical trials, and to standardized and manualized, rationalistic approaches, which were typically mechanistic, individual-centred, and behaviourist in orientation. In response, CIEPP turned its attention to preserving these remarkable bodies of knowledge and invaluable traditions of therapeutic work, whose loss would in our view constitute a significant loss to humanity.
Our archival, bibliographical, educational, documentary and historical research efforts in preserving this work for future generations soon became paramount within our work in the psychiatric field, and remains so today in the ongoing work of CIEPP. In its own way CIEPP remains as quietly pioneering in its work in the 21st Century as it was in the ‘70s and ‘80s when our work proved for a time to have a significant influence—direct and indirect (though often unsung)—on the psychiatric field.
CIEPP’s strategic focus now is not only on continuing to preserve and document the history and methods of these interactional and (more generally) experimental forms of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, but to educate and train clinicians of the next generation in these largely-forgotten clinical methods, otherwise destined to be lost to science until they are one day rediscovered, with too much human suffering continuing needlessly in the meantime.