Shades of Witmer: the demand for Clinical Psychology between continuity and change.

Roberto Vitelli


The centenary of the publication of the first Clinical Psychology journal, Clinical Psychology, founded by Lightener Witmer in 1907, provides an opportunity to reconsider the present situation and the future prospects of the discipline which was given its name by Witmer. Despite its apparent remoteness both in time and in the geographical area of its production, the journal’s introductory article, signed by Witmer himself, may be a good starting point. Organizing a discourse on the “demand for Clinical Psychology between continuity and change” necessarily entails, in fact, preliminary reflection on thehistorical a priori related to the two terms used: “demand” and “Clinical Psychology”. If, as Foucault wrote, “man is not a contemporary of his own being” (1966, p. 360), it is necessary to ask oneself which specific discursive practices give rise to the development of the issue of the demand, and also of the idea of a "Clinical Psychology". Returning to Witmer and studying his text does not have so much the sense of a mere reference to a linear historiography; rather, it involves the attempt to define the field in which the question of the Demand for Clinical Psychology found, and still finds, a concrete possibility of being expressed, along with its limits and its prospects. The speaker, in fact, far from having a total grip on his own discourse, relies on the field of expression for the form it will take: “it is the positivity of the discourse that makes up the historical a priori within which both objects and subjects are constituted” (Sorrentino, 2005, p.XXIII). What is at stake, in particular at this moment in history, is not something trifling. What is involved in the issues underlying the question about the present and future of Clinical Psychology is not only what makes up the specific discipline and its range of action, but also the various ators involved: the professionals and those who go to them for help.

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Rivista di Psicologia Clinica. Teoria e metodi dell'intervento

Rivista Telematica a Carattere Scientifico Registrazione presso il Tribunale civile di Roma (n.149/2006 del 17/03/2006)

ISSN 1828-9363