(2006). Janetian Studies, Actes des conf. du 27 mai 2006, No Spécial 01, pp. 9-14.
1. Cognition, behaviour, psychotherapy
If a cognitive behavioural therapist should want to learn about the psychotherapy of Pierre Janet , one would recommend the following studies :
1st regarding the psychology of neuroses : “Les Obsessions et la psychasthénie” (1903)
2nd relative to therapy: “La médecine psychologique” (1923) or the chapter on treatment by excitation ( les traitements par l’excitation) in the third volume of “les médications psychologiques” (1919).
3rd concerning theory: his lessons on “La force et la faiblesse psychologique”(1932) and his contribution in the Encyclopédie Francaise entitled “ La psychologie de la conduite” (1938).
These studies cover 35 years, but it should be added that from his beginnings Janet has given philosophical and methodological arguments for what is called today the cognitive behavioural approach in pathological psychology and psychological therapy.
Brooks (1998) has discussed the role of the “eclectic legacy” in French psychology (Ribot, Janet) and sociology (Espinas, Durkheim). He states that Janet, like Ribot , was a monist, who saw mind and motion as two aspects of the same reality, to be studied by the methods of natural science. But, in contrast to Ribot “Janet refused to invoke physiology to explain psychological phenomena” (p.180) , because this would be” premature” and “metaphysical”. Janet would have also argued “on methodological grounds that any act that normally requires conscious thought must be assumed to contain conscious elements, even if the subject is not aware of them.”(p.181). Thus he extended consciousness beyond habit and instinct to include even the regulation of the body’s physiological functioning.
These views could qualify Janet as an early representant of the modern cognitive paradigm, introduced during the Sixties of the last century in psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy. Bolton (2004) has recently argued that this paradigm sucessfully replaced the solution for the problem of the subjective as well as objective nature of psychological phenonomena offered by Karl Jaspers, who proposed in his “Allgemeine Psychopathologie” from 1913 complementary methodologies for Understanding the subjective and Explanation of the objective. Now, in the cognitive paradigm meaning could have a causal function and may be combined with, but not reduced to biological research. This perspective is found today in “translational research” in psychiatry (e.g. Bohus & Schmahl 2006) or within the framework of “biocultural co – constructivism” in lifespan psychology (Baltes et al. 2006) .
Of importance, too, is Janet’s view of hypothesis as “ un procédé par lequel l’esprit humain dépasse l’observation sensible et ajoute aux faits connus par les sens quelque notion qui n’est pas actuellement sensible et qui peut-être ne le sera jamais.” (1907, p.227).
[ “a procedure by means of which the human mind goes beyond sensory observation and adds to the facts known by the senses some notion that cannot actually be sensed and which perhaps never will be.”]. Moreover, as experimentalist, Janet followed Claude Bernard’s opinion, that without hypothesis one would only accumulate sterile observations.
The link of Janet’s psychological conception with behaviourism probably was recognized early because of his own remarks about the objective psychology of action, but obviously it was not taken very seriously. The French historians Carroy and Plas (2000) doubted whether Janet succeded in detaching his objective psychology from its speculative and idealistic origins. They consider that even his attempt to place behaviour at the center of psychology was based on the a priori - postulate that he would include higher, conscious processes in his study of human behaviour. Accordingly, Carroy and Plas argued that Janet cannot qualify as a behaviourist even today. However, one can only agree with this conclusion if one adopts a narrow definition of behaviourism. A classical behaviourist , such as learning theorist Edwin R. Guthrie (1938) evidently saw this differently : after he has visited Janet’s lessons at the Collège de France in winter 1923 , he not only translated one of his books into English, but combined in his clinical psychology textbook (1938) “Janet’s descriptive psychology and current physiological notions of the sources of action” and “added an objective theory of learning.” (p.ix).
In a recent study on the history of behaviourism between 1890 and 1990 Leary (2004) uses the role of consciousness and social-cognitive processes in empirical psychology to point to the variety of approaches since the days of James , Baldwin, Angell, Dewey and Mead until the works of Watson, Tolman, Hull and Skinner. In particular Tolman’s careful and metaphorical conceptualizations and his undogmatic methodology of purposive behaviourism which places mental processes at the center of research, possibly reveal the closest relationship to Janet’s approach. For instance, compare Tolman’s (1927) attempt to define consciousness in behavioristic terms: “Wherever an organism at a given moment of stimulation shifts then and there from being ready to respond in some relatively less differentiated way to being ready to respond in some relatively more differentiated way , there is consciousness.” ( p.64) with Janet’s (1929): „La conscience, c’est précisément ce que nous ajoutons de nous-mêmes pour ordonner nos actions, pour réorganiser tout l’organisme qui a été dérangé par une action provoquée par le monde extérieur. » (p.88) [“Consciousness is precisely what we add of ourselves in order to command our actions, to reorganize the whole organism who has been disturbed by an action elicited by the external world.”]
Janet’s significance for modern Cognitive
Behaviour Therapies (CBT) is indicated by his definition of psychotherapy: “Psychotherapy is an application of psychological science to the treatment of disease.” (1925, p. 1208). Already in 1907, in his resumé of his lessons at the Collège de France entitled “Psychological Analysis and the critics of psychotherapeutic methods” Janet made the following remarkable statement: « Enfin les éducations de l’attention , les traitements de l’émotivité, les diverses excitations qui se proposent de relever le niveau mental , constituent des méthodes qui sont encore employées un peu au hasard, mais qui joueront un rôle de plus en plus grande dans l’éducation et dans le traitement de l’esprit. » (p.71) [“Finally the education of attention, the treatment of emotionality , the various excitations which intend to raise the mental niveau, form methods which are already applied a bit by chance, but which will play a more and more important role in education and treatment of the mind.”]
2. Janet’s self-regulatory resource allocation model
Janet’s blueprint of the working of the mind contains several key concepts which seem relevant for CBT :
Force can be understood as referring to available processing resources which have to be mobilized and distributed among processing components according to the given situational demands, executed by a hypothesized supervisory and regulatory function. This allocation policy corresponds to tension. Tendencies (tendances), hereditary or acquired, can be viewed as molar behavioural units, which in their stage of latency belong to procedural (implicit) longterm - memory systems (as opposed to declarative or explicit memory storage). To become activated tendencies pass through different stages (erection, desire, performance), by this making it possible to describe symptoms as errors, failures or insufficient actions. Of particular interest is Janet’s view of feelings (sentiments) as regulations of action and because of that they can be related to motivation and learning: effort ( referring to controlled processes) , fatigue ( habituation, or reactive inhibition ) , angoisse ( avoidance), triomphe ( intrinsic reinforcement / self-reinforcement).
The features of Janets model are : action oriented ; dynamic (that is referring to continuous change of action in time); general as well as differential ; consistent wit neurobiological models of behavioural-emotional regulation , in particular regarding the prefrontal – limbic systems .
Janet’s model seems to belong to a group of behavioural models which have in common the idea of dynamic self-regulation. In cognitive psychology , for example Schneider and Shiffrin (1984) , Kahneman and Treisman (1984), Norman & Shallice (1986) , Simon (1994), or in personality psychology Kuhl (1998) have summarized many relevant contributions during the last decades.
3. Janet’s concepts in modern cognitive behavioural therapies
Janet’s model relies on the idea of self-regulation or attentional and volitional processes. Its emphasis on the role of cognitive -verbal processes in understanding and treating psychological disorders anticipates recent developments in cognitive and behavioural therapies (cf. Heim & Bühler, 2003; Heim & Bühler, in press).
In the Seventies for example Albert Bandura’s (1977) self efficacy model or Frederick Kanfer’s (1991) self- management approach have introduced the cognitive paradigm in behaviour therapy.
In this respect it is worth noting the current shift from the rationalistic and somewhat static information processing models of that time to constructivist, dynamic conceptions (e.g. Meichenbaum & Fitzpatrick 1993). Although these newer approaches, except the one I discuss below usually do not refer to Janet directly , or mention him only in passing, the compatibility with his approach is astonishing. I will give a few examples:
1. The General Psychotherapy approach by the late Klaus Grawe (1995) founds on a classification of therapeutic interventions according to the type of problem and the state of the individual to be treated. This differential and integrative model was clearly antedated by Janet (1919; 1923) who has discussed and grouped the various methods of psychotherapy with respect to the intended goal.
2. Janet’s resource allocation model fits well into the framework of CBT for depression. More specifically,in Mindfulness - Based Cognitive Therapy, Segal, Williams and Teasdale (2002) propose that for the prevention of recurrent major depression , train patients to disengage from their habitual ruminative processing mode and shift to an intentional processing mode in which automatic negative thoughts and feelings are viewed as mental events rather than identified with the self. Explained in Janet’s terms, this treatment aims to replace automatic affirmative beliefs with reflective beliefs by raising mental tension.
3. With respect to posttraumatic stress disorder the model of Ehlers and Clark (2000) resembles Janet’s views in several ways:
First during the traumatic experience, data-driven processing is more dominant than conceptual processing. This, in turn favors pathogenic associative learning processes and prevents a synthetic processing of the trauma. This idea corresponds to Janet’s “lowering of the mental niveau” .
Second, reexperiencing of the trauma caused by involuntary (automatic) mechanisms while intentional or voluntary recall is blocked, is understood as a consequence of deficient inhibitory processes in autobiographic memory. In Janet’s terms, the traumatic memories return because they are disintegrated or dissociated fixed ideas that are evoked by stimulation.
Third the therapeutic approach is an attempt to improve synthetic processing just as Janet proposed when he wrote: “Les meilleurs procédés sont ceux qui déterminent l’assimilation de l’événement émotionnant, qui amènent le sujet à comprendre par a réflexion, à y réagir correctement, à s’y résigner. » (1923, p.101) [“The best methods are those that cause the assimilation of the arousing event that bring the subject to comprehend it by reflection, to react against it correctly and to resign himself to it.”]. Recently, Fiedler (2006) has discussed Janet’s ideas on dissociation and trauma in a broader cognitive behavioural context as well as in contrast to psychoanalytic conceptions.
links between Janet’s studies and cognitive behavioural therapies are
underscored by the work of Nicolas Hoffmann in
It is true, that Janet’s contributions were rarely acknowledged, especially not in the field of CBT, who have many more or less unknown masters. But it is not my intention to complain about that shortcoming or to demand a priority for Janet’s therapeutic approach, or even to establish a Janetian therapy. This in fact would make no real sense and would contradict even Janet’s opinion about the scientific process.
Instead, the German Pierre Janet Gesellschaft attempts to promote a new or even first reception of Janet’s inimitable science-practionner discourse. This refers primarily to his clinical case descriptions as well as pathopsychological conceptions and could help the therapist to understand the holistic perspective for cognitive behavioural psychotherapy as a continuously changing field with preliminary concepts without walking right into the traps of neurobiological reductionism, adherence to technocratic or scholastic attitudes, or pseudophilosophical and esoterical loans. Moreover, Janet’s resource allocation model, used as metamodel , that is as a heuristic and organizing principle in individual therapy is a valuable tool for clinical processing and decision making.
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