Data Type: Journal Article

The friends and supporters of psychotherapy. On social circles in urban life

Kadushin, C. (1966). The friends and supporters of psychotherapy: On social circles in urban life. American Sociological Review, 31(6), 786-802.

This 1966 work by Charles Kadushin builds upon Georg Simmel’s notion of social circles and examines the way they apply to the sociology of psychotherapy. Specifically, Kadushin examines the role of the latent social circle of “friends and supporters of psychotherapy,” who share three fundamental characteristics: “knowing others in therapy, knowing others with similar problems, asking friends for a referral, and telling friends one is applying to a clinic” (786). Kadushin uses these ideas to develop a model in which social circles, instead of individuals, exert personal influence.

A footnote explains that data were obtained largely from analytic clinics: “The empirical support for this study comes from data on the decisions to undertake psychotherapy made by 1452 applicants to ten psychiatric clinics in New York City in 1959 and 1960 . . . Most of the data reported here are derived from 872 applicants in 1960 to five of the six major psychoanalytic clinics in New York City to whom a questionnaire was mailed upon receipt of their application to the clinic” (787). Yet, before he uses these data, Kadushin develops his model of social circles by first, figuring out what makes them distinct as a social unit. Specifically, he states, “The ‘friends’ . . . have . . . indirect dense interaction . . . common interest . . . low institutionalization . . . [and] no formal leadership” (791). While the model is tested implicitly, Kadushin says that the type of sociometric testing that would be truly useful to the study is currently outside of his means. Implicit testing of the model is done in the form of hypothetical examples based on a latent structure model and a four-class model (cultural and psychiatric sophistication, cultural sophistication only, psychiatric sophistication only, and no sophistication). This latent structure model is then applied to the sample group discussed above, with consistent results. Kadushin’s analysis leads him to a model of social circles. He notes that a circle (as expressed by The Theory of Our Friends) has three aspects: “the definition, which includes the notion of common interests and indirect interaction; the formal principle of local independence, which follows upon this definition; and the substantive notion that circles intersect one with another” (795). Moreover, Kadushin points out that the “Circle of Our Friends,” as originally articulated by Simmel, can help fulfill the needs of its members, and push forward the psychoanalytic movement.

While this relatively early work has limited empirical testing, it still contributes to the extant literature on psychotherapy by re-examining psychotherapy (specifically, psychoanalysis) in an explicitly sociological way. By focusing his model on the outside support given to clients of clinical psychology (namely by their friends), Kadushin expands the sphere of influence involved in psychological “treatments” (in general) and identifies one place (i.e. friendships with other people who have had, or are engaging in, therapy) in which influence and meaning-making may be particularly important in psychology.

Categories: Sociology of Mental Health and Illness
Publication Date: 1966