Dr. Kylie Smith Publishes ‘Talking Therapy: Knowledge and Power in American Psychiatric Nursing’

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Dr. Kylie Smith, a historian at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, has published Talking Therapy: Knowledge and Power in American Psychiatric Nursing with Rutgers University Press. Five years in the making, Talking Therapy traces the rise of modern psychiatric nursing in the United States from the 1920s to the 1970s. Through an analysis of the relationship between nurses and other mental health professions, with an emphasis on nursing scholarship, this book demonstrates the inherently social construction of “mental health,” and highlights the role of nurses in challenging, and complying with, modern approaches to psychiatry. After WWII, heightened cultural and political emphasis on mental health for social stability enabled the development of psychiatric nursing as a distinct knowledge project through which nurses aimed to transform institutional approaches to patient care, and to contribute to health and social science beyond the bedside. Nurses now take for granted the ideas that underpin their relationships with patients, but this book demonstrates that these were ideas not easily won, and that nurses in the past fought hard to make mental health nursing what it is today.