This essay situates the history of “the relationship” as a therapeutic technology within the broader context of changing social relations in the twentieth-century United States. More specifically, it outlines the emergence and subsequent diffusion of practices that aim to cultivate a social bond between therapist and patient that may serve as a psychotherapeutic tool. The article highlights the transformations of this technology as its institutional and epistemic foundations became challenged. Initially conceived as an “artificial” social relation designed to help with “personal adjustment,” the therapeutic relationship was soon also deployed by non-experts and became a model for more healthful social relations. More recently, it has been fashioned as collaborative and combined with a range of other methods.
history of psychotherapy; therapeutic relationship; social technology; social relations