Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: May 2019

10 - Psychodynamic Psychology


Advances in the study of the brain at the end of the 1900s led to a new medical specialty, neurology, the study of diseases of, and damage to, the nervous system. This new specialty was closely associated with psychiatry, and the relationship between the functions of the brain and mental life was central in it.

Neurologists were doctors of the mind, and they gradually earned a reputation as scientists having the knowledge to treat mental disorders. Science, and not least medicine, had great prestige around 1900, and this contributed to great expectations of and confidence in neurologists. We should see the considerable fame attained first by Janet and Freud, and then by Jung and Adler, against this background. Until now, ideas about psychological problems had been governed by religious and moral traditions, but in the first half of the twentieth century, many sought a foundation in scientific knowledge. The new doctors of the mind filled a vacuum created by the weakening of religious and moral traditions. Thus, they not only solved people's specific problems; they also provided guidance for everyday living.

The new specialty was based to only a limited extent on firmly documented medical knowledge. Still, neurologists were more competent to treat and express opinions about mental disorders than people without their training. Through their practice, they also obtained information about the social background of their patients. In addition to their knowledge of the nervous system, therefore, they could claim to have clinical psychological experience. By systematizing this knowledge, they worked within a scientific tradition and were regarded as scientists.

The problems dealt with in the new medical specialty were largely psychological in nature, and many neurologists practiced what we would today regard as clinical psychology. Having only a slender basis in physiology and neurology, neurology was strongly influenced by cultural traditions and for this reason was practiced differently in different countries. It was also heavily influenced by the particular interests and personalities of the people giving it shape. We have seen how Pavlov and Bekhterev developed a Russian branch of neurology, and how Charcot, Ribot, and Janet formed another version in France. The most influential clinical psychology, based on his neurological practice, was that of Sigmund Freud.

In Vienna, there was another neurologist, Alfred Adler, and in nearby Germanspeaking Switzerland, a third, Carl Gustav Jung, who developed influential clinical psychologies.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

A History of Modern Psychology
  • Online ISBN: 9781316272442
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *