Child psychologists, Psychology

Childhood Disorders: How We Benefit Today from the Work of the Psychotherapist Emil Kraepelin

child psychotherapist

The phrase “motherhood” can evoke a wide range of mental images, many of which the popular media promote on a daily basis. Frequently, the images present completely opposite representations. One presents the ideal of motherhood that is unfailingly responsive to the child. The other presents a more negative picture that views the current trends towards single motherhood as a bastion of irresponsibility. The perfect, selfless mother lives up to pure love, while the other succumbs to her own selfish desires.

Both ends of the spectrum fail to present a balanced view, and in fact, leave out mothers who face rearing children with psychiatric disorders. With the expertise of a competent child psychotherapist, mothers in this situation can gain the knowledge and wisdom to address these issues, especially in light of the advances in modern psychiatry launched by Emil Kraepelin.

Innovative and Revolutionary Theories

Emil Kraepelin is commonly lauded as the founder of modern psychiatry, and a modern child psychotherapist can thank Kraepelin for his revolutionary work. Born in 1856 in Germany, he was the first doctor to offer theories that genetic mutations and biological abnormalities caused many psychiatric conditions. His contributions included a classification system of mental disorders that grouped the conditions based upon common, verifiable patterns of symptoms. Dr. Kraepelin also established that mental disorders demonstrated specific patterns in course, genetics and outcomes.

He published his innovative textbook, Lehrbuch der Psychiatrie, in 1883, and this study emphasized the significance of brain pathology in psychiatric disorders as well as his considerable observations in support of this theory.

The most critical contribution was his system of classification of psychiatric disorders, and this method later became the precursor to the DSM manuals. Kraepelin asserted the hypothesis that specific patterns of symptoms occurring on a regular basis must be classified apart from other disorders.

Later, he clarified and described these patterns, thus establishing the prototype of our current standards. Integrating all of the clinical data to produce this classification system was a large undertaking that represented a crucial contribution to modern psychopathology.

Dr. Kraepelin viewed each mental disorder as separate and distinct from others and proposed that the course of each could be predicted and predetermined just as any organic, medical disease. This revolutionary theory led to a profound interest in the precise description and classification of psychiatric disorders. One result today, in cases of childhood disorders, is that a child psychotherapist can envisage the ultimate conclusion and use appropriate treatments.

The education of the child psychotherapist

Dr. Kraepelin studied medicine in Leipzig and at the University of Wurzburg. Subsequent to earning his MD, Dr. Kraepelin practiced at the University of Munich with Bernhard von Gudden. He returned to Leipzig in 1882 and worked in the psychological research lab of Wilhelm Wundt. From 1885 to 1891, he worked at Dorpat, and later became a professor for the University of Heidelberg. In 1903, he founded the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Munich, and in 1917 he founded the German Research Institute of Psychiatry.

While at the University of Dorpat, he studied the clinical histories of specific patients and realized that identifying and delineating the patterns of symptoms created his organized method to categorize psychiatric disorders. This produced a clinical view of mental disorders, which challenged the traditional methods of symptomatic diagnoses. Prior to this new way of thinking, doctors had assumed that similar symptoms could come from a single illness.

Contribution to Psychology

Kraepelin’s most important achievements were the identification and classification of two separate psychiatric disorders. Kraepelin identified dementia praecox, later called schizophrenia, and manic depression as separate forms of psychosis. He presented ideas that manic depression was periodic, with specific episodes, whereas schizophrenia could result in permanent cognitive malfunction. His assertions focused on the pattern of symptoms rather than the similarity of them.

In contemporary society, very few people outside of the disciplines of psychiatry and psychology have heard of Kraepelin and understand the significance of his work. His work is used as the foundation of every diagnostic measurement used in these fields, including the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Personal and Societal Influences

Dr. Kraepelin excelled in empirical research and preferred experiment psychological approaches, and he did not follow or support psycho-analysis. In today’s society, he would be viewed as data-driven, and he taught his students to simply describe observable symptoms rather than try to interpret them.

He wrote that his 5th edition of Psychiatrie, was

“a decisive step from a symptomatic to a clinical view of insanity….The importance of external clinical signs has…been subordinated to consideration of the conditions of origin, the course, and the terminus which result from individual disorders. (…).”

Nonetheless, the era in which he worked, as a contemporary to Freud, influenced his work. In the same edition of Psychiatrie, he wrote about “the conditions of origin”, and regarding dementia praecox, he wrote that it was

“a disease process in the brain, involving the cortical neurones, brought about by an autointoxication … as a result of a disorder of metabolism.”(Kraepelin, 1907: 221–2; 1919: 244).

Moreover, regarding hysteria, Kraepelin wrote about “morbid” constitution, and “defective heredity.” In addition, he examined the possibility of uterine disturbances and the role of feminine sexual organs.

As modern society began to embrace feminism in the 1960s and 1970s, many of these views faced renewed analysis and criticism. Thus, even the greatest child psychotherapist could not escape influencing the definitions and societal views on womanhood and motherhood.

How a Child Psychotherapist Benefits from Kraepelin’s Work

What this means for mothers today is a systematic, objective approach used by a child psychotherapist to diagnose and treat children with disorders. Moreover, clearly classifying symptoms may lead a child psychotherapist to refer a child to a medical doctor when symptoms appear to overlap or present as a biological illness.

For mothers, this means they can get the help their child needs without the stigma that mental illness once sustained. This in turn, means that our contemporary reality of motherhood can be far more balanced between the extremes of perfection and imperfection.

child psychotherapist
Emil Kraepelin Wikimedia Commons CC2.0
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