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Francis W. McPeek
Role of Religious Bodies in the Treatment of Inebriety in
the United States
Science and Society, 1945
of a later development in the use of religious elements
in the treatment of inebriety is the work of the Rev. Dr.
Elwood Worcester and Samuel McComb, together with that of
the physician, Isador H. Coriat, at Emmanuel Church in Boston.
Begun shortly after the turn of the century, the so-called
Emmanuel Movement had a lively impact on the thinking of
churchmen and church workers in this country.
center of the work was the clinic operated under the auspices
of the church. The philosophy was that both medicine and
religion have essential places in the treatment of any disease,
but most particularly in the treatment of the functional
illnesses. In the first book published by these three men,
Religion and Medicine, they strive to inform the public
on what they are attempting:
believe in the power of the mind over the body, and we also
believe in medicine, in good habits, and in a wholesome,
well regulated life. In the treatment of functional nervous
disorders, we make free use of moral and physical agencies,
but we do not believe in overtaxing these valuable aids
by expecting the mind to attain results which can be effected
more easily through physical instrumentality’s."
procedures were employed in diagnosis and case records were
kept. The use of specialists was frequent. When physical
medicine was indicated, it was given, but it was accompanied
by skilled religious counseling. The then current knowledge
and opinions on the nature of the unconscious mind were
freely drawn upon by specialists. Suggestion and autosuggestion
were frankly employed.
connection with inebriety, many of the viewpoints expressed
by these workers have been subsequently rejected. They accepted
the theory of reproductive germ damage; they held that children
of drunkards suffer to an almost incredible extent from
various forms of mental and nervous diseases; that these
children will inherit enfeebled or defective physical constitutions
because of their parents constant tippling, and so on. The
only differential diagnosis was between the chronic alcoholic
and the dipsomaniac, by which they distinguished between
the steady drinker and the periodic. The principal form
of treatment, when abstinence was agreed to, was hypnosis
and suggestion. All this was in 1908. By 1931, Worcester
and McComb, again writing jointly, their book this time
called Body, Mind and Spirit, had seen, and had liberally
used, many advances in the field of medical psychology.
The older doctrines of Charcot and Coue had given way before
those of Freud, and much was taken from the latter. But
the firm belief in the instrumentality of religion remained
unshaken, and the equally firm belief that religion and
medicine must go hand in hand:
the beginning we have associated ourselves with competent
medical men and surgeons. Indeed, had such cooperation been
refused, I should not have dreamed of assuming responsibility
for the sick in mind and body. For many years most of our
patients have been sent to us by physicians, and in all
cases which involved more than the need of moral and spiritual
advice we have left no stone unturned to procure the best
diagnosis and medical care obtainable."
dealing with the inebriate, three conditions were laid down.
The alcoholic must wish to stop of his own volition and
not simply because his wife or someone else requires him
to submit to treatment. Only those who seriously propose
total abstinence for the rest of their lives are accepted
for treatment. And no discussions are held with persons
who are in a state of intoxication.
treatment process, after these conditions have been satisfied,
is partially in the field of therapeutic analysis of the
patients problems, the use of suggestion, and sometimes
hypnosis. Suggestion is used only when the patient has been
relaxed and is in condition to respond to it. Specifically,
something like this is said:
have determined to break this habit, and you have already
gone. . . .days without a drink. The desire is fading out
of your mind, and the habit is losing its power over you.
You need not be afraid that you will suffer, for you will
not suffer at all. In a short time liquor in any form will
have no attraction for you. It will be associated in your
mind with weakness and sorrow and sickness and failure..."
patient is built up physically by the use of nourishing
food, exercise, outdoor living, and so on. There is a search
for new occupations and interests. "On the whole, our
successes have been far more frequent than our failures,"
the authors report.
of the Emmanuel Movement has grown a very definite interest
in the alcoholic. Mr. Courtenay Baylor, whose name is familiar
to students of the treatment of inebriety, was long associated
with Drs. Worcester and McComb. Those who wish to know more
about his views and methods may read Dwight Anderson’s
article "The place of the lay therapist in the treatment
of alcoholic." The principle elements in the treatment
of alcoholics are catharsis, surrender, and relaxation -and
these are carried out or induced through the use of religion.