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The First Therapist

Long before the 50-minute hour (which Anna Freud devised to fit more patients into her father’s schedule), Asclepiades set up a private practice in Rome. It was around 100 BCE, and he annoyed all the other physicians by departing from medical standards and prescribing catharsis and exercise for depression, and wine and a hot bath for anxiety. Physicians at the time worked only in institutions, so they were scandalized when Asclepiates accepted money from his patients, making him also the first therapist who did not accept insurance, and placing him socially in the same ranks as a barber, busker or street juggler. He was seen as a weirdo. Things went very well for Asclepiades and his talking cure, though, and his practice thrived, with a schedule that included Marc Antony and Cicero.

Fast forward a few centuries, when the priests set up their tiny booths in churches, and Western culture entered its confessional period, which I think of as an evolutionary step.

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