Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226621432 Published April 2019
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Emotionally Disturbed

A History of Caring for America’s Troubled Children

Deborah Blythe Doroshow

Emotionally Disturbed

Deborah Blythe Doroshow

344 pages | 9 halftones, 3 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2019
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226621432 Published April 2019
E-book $10.00 to $45.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226621579 Published April 2019
Before the 1940s, children in the United States with severe emotional difficulties would have had few options for care. The first option was usually a child guidance clinic within the community, but they might also have been placed in a state mental hospital or asylum, an institution for the so-called feebleminded, or a training school for delinquent children. Starting in the 1930s, however, more specialized institutions began to open all over the country. Staff members at these residential treatment centers shared a commitment to helping children who could not be managed at home. They adopted an integrated approach to treatment, employing talk therapy, schooling, and other activities in the context of a therapeutic environment.
Emotionally Disturbed is the first work to examine not only the history of residential treatment but also the history of seriously mentally ill children in the United States. As residential treatment centers emerged as new spaces with a fresh therapeutic perspective, a new kind of person became visible—the emotionally disturbed child. Residential treatment centers and the people who worked there built physical and conceptual structures that identified a population of children who were alike in distinctive ways. Emotional disturbance became a diagnosis, a policy problem, and a statement about the troubled state of postwar society. But in the late twentieth century, Americans went from pouring private and public funds into the care of troubled children to abandoning them almost completely. Charting the decline of residential treatment centers in favor of domestic care–based models in the 1980s and 1990s, this history is a must-read for those wishing to understand how our current child mental health system came to be.
List of Illustrations


One     O Pioneers!

Interlude: The Road to Residential

Two     Disturbed Children, Disturbing Children

Three   Playing by Ear

Interlude: Therapeutics in Residential Treatment

Four     The Special Relationship

Five     A New Home

Six       Building the Normal Child

Interlude: Homeward Bound

Seven  The Breakdown of Emotional Disturbance

Eight   Discarded Children: The Last Thirty Years in Child Mental Health
Key to Archives and Manuscripts
Review Quotes
"Meticulously researched and well-written . . . . A welcome contribution to the history of medicine. Highly recommended."
Nursing Clio
"The book does a masterful job of explaining how this new category of mental illness came into being and how it related to the emerging field of child psychiatry, as well as to broader changes in psychiatric theory and practice itself."
The Lancet
"Doroshow holds up residential treatment centres not as a perfect model for treatment, but as a riveting example of how we might create change. Her narrative inspires us to examine the cultural ideals quietly shaping our understanding of ourselves and our children. We might not use the word 'normal' these days, but undoubtedly new ideals infuse our understanding of our children and ourselves. What are they? How do they affect even our most  progressive approaches to treating children who struggle? Doroshow’s book ultimately represents a case for more history as thorough and sensitive as her own."
Social History of Medicine
"This is a valuable and interesting book, as Doroshow squarely places the current crisis in youth and adolescent mental health in historical perspective. Government officials, doctors, educational bureaucrats and mental health professionals generally ignore her spot-on push for a continuum of services for those children in dire need of help."
Barron H. Lerner, MD, PhD, author of The Good Doctor: A Father, A Son, and the Evolution of Medical Ethics
"Emotionally Disturbed is a clearly written and meticulously researched account of residential treatment centers, a largely forgotten strategy for addressing the needs of children with mental illness. This book will remind those who work with, live with, and love such children how a combination of ingenuity, resources, and focused care greatly improved the lives of those whom society had left behind."
Nancy Tomes, Stony Brook University
"Doroshow's work exemplifies a new generation of historians bent on reinterpreting the history of American psychiatry from a fresh, twenty-first-century perspective. Artfully researched and beautifully written, Emotionally Disturbed explores a little-known aspect of twentieth-century mental health care: the efforts to devise new therapeutic options for 'leftover' children, that is, children and youth so troubled that neither their families nor existing institutions would care for them. Doroshow's work deepens our understanding of the past and present challenges of caring for this very important, very vulnerable group of Americans."
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