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Emmanuel Movement and Richard Peabody
of Studies on Alcohol, Vol.45, No.1, 1984*
and those who treat them have been of necessity present
oriented. The day-to-day effort of maintaining or promoting
abstinence in living people leaves little attention for
reflection on the history of treatment. This history can,
however, offer much needed perspective on the problems and
limitations of treatments; it permits us to learn from both
the success and failure of earlier work and philosophies.
article will outline the history of what is usually called
the "Peabody Method" of recovery from alcoholism.
Its best known practitioner, Richard Peabody, began treating
alcoholics individually in the early 1920s; his followers
continued until the l950s. As with the later Alcoholics
Anonymous program, its roots were in Protestant religious
thought rather than in medicine. Its later practitioners
imitated the psychiatric model of professional practice,
but their ideas stemmed from pre-Freudian, characteristically
American Progressive thought.
book The Common Sense of Drinking, first published in Boston
in 1931 was widely read and influenced several medical and
lay practitioners. The basic strategy did not originate
with Peabody, however, he refined and "professionalized"
ideas that he had learned in the Emmanuel Movement from
Dr. Elwood Worcester and Courtenay Baylor.
Emmanuel Movement began in Boston in 1906 in the Emmanuel
(Episcopal) Church. The movement’s founder, Dr. Elwood
Worcester, practiced a method of healing for assorted forms
of "nervousness" including alcoholism and other
addictions. Worcester and his assistant, Dr. Samuel McComb,
operated a free clinic supported by the church for about
23 years. The movement was widely reported in the press,
and Worcester and McComb became well known for their success
with alcoholics as well as other types of patients.
1913, Courtenay Baylor began to work for the Emmanuel church
as a specialist in alcoholism; he was probably the first
paid alcoholism therapist in this country. Originally an
insurance agent he had come to Worcester in 1911 for help
with his drinking problem. After a period of sobriety he
retired from the business world to become a paid "friendly
visitor" in the church’s Social Services Department.
He remained at the Church until Worcester’s retirement
in 1929, after which the two practiced together at the Craigie
Foundation of Boston. Worcester died in 1940. In 1945, by
now an old man, Baylor resumed his old job at the Emmanuel
Church. By all accounts he died sober. Baylor described
his treatment technique in the book Remaking a Man (1919)
as did Anderson: in his book titled "The Other Side
of the Bottle" (1950).
most famous patient was Richard Peabody, son of a well known
Boston family, who came to the Emmanuel church for help
with his alcoholism in about 1922. Peabody survived his
World War I service unscathed, but after several years of
heavy drinking found that his life was falling apart. He
had lost his share of the family fortune in shipping at
a time when everyone else was becoming rich from the war.
In 1921 his wife (later known as Caresse Crosby) obtained
a divorce; she had become so afraid of him that she would
not stay alone with him and had appealed to her uncle, J.P.
Morgan for financial and moral support. Peabody suffered
from acute depression and was hospitalized more than once.
his family’s wealth and prestige. Peabody was not
prepared for a career and supporting a family. He had graduated
from Groton preparatory school (where his uncle, Rev. Endicott
Peabody, was headmaster) but never finished Harvard. When
he married in 1915, his wife’s family was already
worried about his drinking. Peabody quickly escaped from
family life by signing up for military service at the Mexican
border. Soon after, he left again for the war in France,
having barely seen his two children. Military life was apparently
a preoccupation with the men in his family; Mrs. Crosby
described his parents’ home as having a "family
atmosphere of eau de cologne and tiptoe discipline….The
household ticked on a training schedule." Major and
Mrs. Peabody lived a "militaristic" existence,
"a strange, muted life, uneventful and unjoyful;"
everything was highly polished with "implements of
war laid out like precious objets d’art." According
to Mrs. Crosby, Mrs. Peabody spent most of her life in nightclothes.
Peabody was an only child "who had never been allowed
to play or cry, for both these exercises disturbed his parents,"
quite a different picture from the "overindulged, pampered
childhood" that Peabody later insisted was the primary
cause of alcoholism.
attended the Emmanuel Church’s clinic and weekly health
classes in the winter of 1921-1922 and by 1924 was listed
in one of its publications as a volunteer assistant in the
Social Service Department (Emmanuel Church, Department of
Community Services, 1924). Sometime during the l920s he
established his own office on Newbury Street in Boston.
During this period he "effected some remarkable cures"
and became known to some as "Dr. Peabody"; patients
came to him from considerable distances. It is likely that
Baylor referred patients to him from the church, since there
were probably more applicants than Baylor himself could
handle. A few years earlier Baylor had observed in a Church
report that alcoholics were coming for treatment from as
far as Santa Barbara, Denver, Mobile, Washington and Philadelphia,
"while New York is a suburb from which we have many
commuters." By 1933, Peabody was practicing in New
York at 24 Gramercy Park.
the 1930s Peabody was publishing articles in both the medical
and lay literature on his method: The New England Journal
of Medicine (1930), Mental Hygiene (1930), The American
Mercury (1931) and American Magazine (1931). His book, The
Common Sense of Drinking (1931) was republished in 1935
as an Atlantic Monthly Press book. By the late 1930s, several
physicians interested in the new "scientific approach"
to alcoholism were using his technique, including Norman
Jolliffe at Bellevue Hospital in New York, Merrill Moore
at Boston City Hospital and Edward Strecker at the Institute
of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. In 1944, the Yale
Center of Alcohol Studies opened the first free clinic exclusively
for the treatment of alcoholism; the Yale plan Clinics in
New Haven and Hartford offered individual and group treatment
under the direction of a Peabody therapist, Raymond G. McCarthy.
his death in 1936, Peabody had trained several, of his sober
patients to become lay therapists like himself, including
Samuel Crocker, James Bellamy, Francis T. Chambers Jr.,
William W. Wister and Wilson Mckay. Wister’s experience
of treatment with Peabody is described in detail in a book
by Bishop titled The Glass Crutch, with an epilogue by Wister
himself. Strecker and Chambers also published a book detailing
their version of the method.
and his coworkers apparently did not share Baylor’s
personal success at remaining sober. A common opinion is
that Peabody died intoxicated, although the evidence is
not conclusive. Samuel Crocker, who had once shared an office
with Peabody, told Faye R. that he was intoxicated at the
time of his death. The personal copy of Peabody’s
book belonging to Bill Wilson (one of the founders of A.A.)
now in the A.A. Archives, contains the following inscription;
"Dr. Peabody was as far as is known the first authority
to state, "once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic,"
and he proved it by returning to drinking and by dying of
alcoholism - proving to us that the condition is uncurable."
This copy was originally owned by Rosa Burwell of Philadelphia.
Some early A.A. members share the opinion that Peabody died
intoxicated. The published sources contradict each other.
Wister quoted Peabody’s second wife to the effect
that he died of pneumonia. The editors of Scribner’s
magazine, which published an article of his posthumously,
claimed that he died of a heart attack. Mrs. Crosby did
authorized biography reports that he became drunk in 1941
after seven years of sobriety, and although he became sober
again, he did not resume therapeutic work. Faye R., who
knew Baylor, Crocker and McKay also resumed drinking. Faye
R. was at different times a patient of Baylor, Crocker and
McKay. She has been abstinent in A.A. for 40 years. Her
summary of the Peabody therapists is: "They had many
wonderful ideas but they just didn’t have the magic
Mann described the Peabody Method as being primarily for
the well-educated or the well-to-do, a description that
also characterized patients of Freudian analysis of the
time. William Wister’s family, was as well known in
Philadelphia as Peabody’s was in Boston; Francis Chambers
belonged to Philadelphia’s most exclusive men’s
clubs. Faye R. reported that Baylor, Crocker and McKay were
also from well-do-do Boston families.
but the well-to-do could afford Peabody’s fees. Wister
was broke and in debt when he appeared on Peabody’s
doorstep in 1934, so the therapist offered to reduce his
fixed fee of $20 per hour to $10. Peabody told Faye R. that
his fee was $10 per session for seven visits per week; she
went to Crocker instead, then newly established in practice,
for $5 per session. According to Faye R., Baylor scorned
such exorbitant rates even when he was himself in difficult
appears that the considerable majority of patients of the
Peabody practitioners were men, although Baylor and Peabody
occasionally referred to "men and women" as potential
patients. Peabody’s method, however, was clearly geared
to the needs and interests of men, and Baylor’s was
much less so, as will be described below. The age distribution
of Peabody’s .patients is not known. Peabody once
remarked to Faye R., then had known of to do so. Peabody
himself was probably only a year or two older than that
when he stopped drinking. Probably the great majority of
the alcoholic patients of those practitioners were white,
since their race was not mentioned. Worcester did point
with pride to the success of his church’s self-help
tuberculosis program with blacks, but did not refer to them
among the clinic patients.
made important philosophical changes in and added some psychiatric
terminology to the treatment method although it had as its
original model quite a different conception of the relationships
among body, mind and spirit than those used by Peabody’s
contemporaries. Worcester and McComb based their claims
as healers on their qualifications as clergymen; coincidentally,
both had doctorates in psychology. The later practitioners,
however, had serious problems of establishing professional
identification; Peabody and his followers therefore made
serious compromises in their work in the hope - ultimately
unfulfilled -that they could be accepted as mini-psychiatrists.
The Emmanuel Church clergy began their work at a time when
almost no one had heard of Freud, a time when the whole
notion of psychotherapy and "functional" nervous
disorders was still very new and open to various eclectic
treatments. Worcester and McComb were severely criticized
by both. physicians and fellow clergy for daring to invade
medical territory, but in 1906 the medical profession had
neither the organization nor the public acceptance to force
them out of the field. By the 1930s, however, this. had
changed considerably. In 1940 Wister was actually threatened
with arrest for practicing medicine without a license. In
trying so hard to imitate the prestigious intellectual ideas
of the l930s, Peabody and his followers essentially gutted
their method of the vital substance that had made Worcester
and Baylor so successful in earlier decades.
1935 a new rival to Peabody was quietly being born in Akron,
Ohio. By 1942, A.A. had grown enough in size and popular
reputation to be a viable alternative to the Peabody Method
in some urban areas. As with the patients of the earlier
method, A.A. was initially composed primarily of the well-to-do
and well educated. Because it was free and nonprofessional,
however, it quickly spread to a much wider group. Additionally,
A.A. in its basic concepts of healing and suffering, was
much more similar to the Emmanuel Movement than to the professional
therapists. Organizationally, it was quite different from
both, but Elwood Worcester would certainly have recognized
its basic beliefs as very harmonious with his own. Faye
R. reported that, near the end of his career, Baylor attended
an A.A. meeting and loved it: he enthusiastically recommended
it to her. Bill Wilson and his wife Lois (later to become
the founder of ‘Al-Anon) both read The Common Sense
of Drinking in the early days of his sobriety and were very
interested in it. However, only a few phrases and helpful
hints from it were incorporated into the A.A. program. The
Emmanuel Church like thousands of other American churches
-now houses a large A.A. meeting: it meets on Wednesdays
in the old parish house, the same place where Worcester
and McComb gave Wednesday night classes for up to a thousand
and McComb were not alcoholics. Their therapeutic method
was originally designed to treat the condition then called
"neurasthenia," a term covering an assortment
of neurotic symptoms, psychosomatic problems, phobias, extreme
worry, anxiety, addiction and other problems then considered
non-organic. In a follow up study of clinic patients during
part of 1906-1907, Cabot reported that only 12% were alcoholics.
In the Emmanuel Church 1909 Yearbook, McComb described a
cured patient -a young, well educated, "refined"
woman who had been irritable, self-conscious, preoccupied
with morbid thoughts and uninterested in life; "It
is mainly, through not exclusively for sufferers of which
this young woman is the type that our health conference
has been inaugurated." The considerable majority of
the nonalcoholic patients were women. Worcester and McComb
reported three rules for accepting alcoholic patients: (1)
They must come voluntarily from their own desire to stop
drinking, not solely because of pressure from others. (2)
They must be willing to accept the goal of total abstinence,
for "the attempt to convert a drunkard into a moderate
drinker…..cannot be done once in a thousand times."
They must be dry during the first interview and pledge to
be abstinent for one week. The brief pledge apparently had
some value: "In the course of many years experience
very few patients have broken this promise."
believed that all diseases had physical, mental and spiritual
components - some problems might’ be primarily physical,
such as a broken leg, but the patient’s attitudes
could still promote or retard healing. Many problems were
more obviously’ related to a person’s mental
state. A case of deafness, for example, might be purely
organic and should be treated first by a physician, but
some cases were also of psychological origin and could be
relieved by psychotherapy. Many of Worcester’s patients
had primarily moral problems or habits that required a new
way of life: addictions, anxiety, or excessive fear or worry.
The realms of the body, mind and spirit interacted in a
delicate balance in each person; an improvement in one’
area might lead to improvements in another. Severe pain
from an intractable physical ailment could be relieved by
changes in attitude; the physical craving for alcohol or
morphine could be eliminated by a more spiritual way of
life. All nervous sufferers could be helped by redirecting
their attention away from themselves to a life of service
to others. Exercise, proper’ breathing and natural
sleep would ultimately promote a proper spiritual balance.
concept of the unity of body, mind and spirit that Baylor
inherited from Worcester was probably unique in American
thinking of the time. Worcester acquired his ideas from
the German psychologist, Gustav Fechner, with whom he had
studied at the University of Leipzig. Fechner was renowned
for his early work in experimental psychology, but his lifelong
philosophical interest was in developing a true Geistwissenschaft,
or a science that would include both the material and the
spiritual worlds. He believed that the relationships between
these two realms could be understood through mathematical
formulas that would explain both without reducing either
to the terms of the other. ‘Worcester explicated Fechner’s
ideas and claimed that he was unable to disentangle Fechner’s
ideas from his own commented: "The modern temperament
finds the union of the mystical and the scientific difficult
to understand. Yet Fechner’s mystical grasp upon the
unity of life and the world lives on, and in each generation
finds a welcome from a few."
and McComb were best known for their use of suggestion and
autosuggestion. They employed hypnosis with a small number
of alcoholics to keep them sober long enough to receive
treatment, but in most cases they merely put the patient
in a state of relaxation. With the patient seated in a comfortable
chair in a dim and quiet room, the therapist would give
directions for systematically relaxing each limb and slowing
down racing thoughts. Baylor would ask the patient to imagine
that he was sailing in a small boat toward an island, at
first quickly, then more slowly until the person ended up
lying comfortably on a sunny shore.
believed that a person’s subconscious mind was more
amenable to outside influence while he was in this relaxed
condition. He could then suggest to an alcoholic, for example,
that the desire to drink would soon pass, that he would
soon sleep better and that he could begin to make progress
in his life. Worcester believed that in this way powerful
healing forces of the subconscious mind( a term that he
intentionally retained after Freud’s "unconscious"
became popular) could be brought into play to support a
person’s conscious desire to recover. Worcester saw
the subconscious mind as an essentially positive force:
it was the source of enormous strength, creativity, inherited
memory and communication with the spiritual realm. It was,
in short, the spirit of the soul. Consistent with his view
of the unity of the soul and body, he saw the subconscious
as the regulator of elementary physical processes, including
the heartbeat, circulation, respiration and time keeping;
thus positive suggestions directed to it could affect physical
Worcester, the, redirection of attention was a very basic
element of therapy. Nervous sufferers and alcoholics became
morbidly preoccupied with their destructive habits and sufferings;
the therapeutic effort was to redirect that attention toward
higher goals - the development of a spiritual life and service
to others. Misdirected attention, produced often by physical
pain or bad habits, caused much avoidable’ suffering;
"A large part of the sorrow, ‘failure, sickness
and discouragement of’ life comes from this one source,
the anticipation of evil. If we could disregard all pain
and misfortune but the actual, we should deliver ourselves
from about eight—tenths of the sorrow of this life."
(This is the same principle as A.A.’s injunction "don’t
project" - or assume a future possibility to be present
could be redirected at first by a therapist through suggestion
while the patient was in the relaxed stated but the patient
must be taught to practice autosuggestion until new mental
habits were learned. The latter technique made the healing
power of the subconscious available in daily life; it consisted
of "holding a given thought in’ the mental focus,
to the exclusion of all other thoughts." The patient
learned autosuggestion and other techniques (proper breathing,
hints on obtaining restful sleep, etc.) not only in individual
treatment sessions but in the Wednesday night classes in
which the clergy and others lectured on such topics as habit,
anger, worry and fear.
theological basis of Worcester’s belief in redirected
attention rested on the Biblical "resist not evil"
which he interpreted to mean that constructive psychological
change could be promoted more effectively by building up
a person’s strengths than by directly attacking the
problem or bad habit itself. For example, Baylor reported
successfully treating a woman with a phobia about open spaces
by engaging her in a deep conversation about her work while
walking with her, for the first time in many years, through
Boston Public Gardens. He had already done the ground work,
however, with many sessions of relaxation and suggestion
and by gradually weaning her away from sleeping medications.
The Emmanuel clinic used prayer as an essential vehicle
for acquiring the power of attention, just as some holistic
healing strategies today often employ meditation for related
purposes. Worcester’s theory went well beyond that
of simple meditation, however; for him, the therapeutic
dynamic was that "surrender implied in sincere prayer
is always followed by the consciousness of peace and inner
freedom." The mechanism here, as with attention, is
paradoxical: "Only by surrender to the All Holy and
All Powerful are, the potentialities of the self realized."
What follows is a process of conversion; "Whereas the
sinful tendency about which (the patient) was in the main
concerned is robbed of its attractive quality and the thought
of it finds no entrance to his imagination." New sources
of energy from the subconscious are thereby tapped. These
paradoxes had long been familiar to religious thinkers,
but they were not described in the psychiatric literature
until the 1940s with Tiebout’s analyses of the therapeutic
mechanisms of A.A.
also saw the benefit of group support and the service that
afflicted could render each other, an idea that A.A. developed
to a much greater extent years later. The Emmanuel Movement
prescribed not only individual therapy, lectures and reading,
but provided social hours after the weekly classes at which
the patients were expected to talk to each other their growth
and progress. Following the principle of redirected attention,
however they were not supposed to dwell on their ailments.
The Church also ran a well staffed Social Service Department
that provided "friendly visitors" to call on patients
and provide moral support, assist in finding jobs and occasional
financial help. Some staff members, such as Baylor, were
paid former patients: others were volunteers.
"guiding principle" of the Social Service Department,
according to the Emmanuel Church 1909 Yearbook, was to turn
the thoughts of each sufferer from himself to others. In
all troubles of mental origin, one of the most successful
curative agencies has been to get one person to help another
suffering from exactly from his own trouble. How can we
ask another to make efforts which we will not make ourselves?
In this way moral strength is passed on from one to another."
important off-shoot of this arrangement was ‘the Church
sponsored club for alcoholics. Founded in 1910 by’
a nonalcoholic parishioner, Ernest Jacoby, the club held
meetings in the church basement on Saturdays and its space
was used for socializing on most other nights. Nonalcoholic’s
also attended and the club’s relationship to alcoholism
was disguised’ in Church reports, but the evidence
is that its purpose was to help newly abstinent patients
reinforce each other’s abstinence. Its motto was "A
club for men to help themselves by helping others."
There were no membership fees. The only requirement for
membership was "an expressed desire to lead an honorable
life and a willingness to aid other men less fortunate."
Worcester’ added one other requirement; "They
should not come to the Church drunk." A follow-up committee
sought out those who failed to appear for meetings. A system
resembling A.A. sponsorship was created, called "special
brothers," in which each member was expected to look
out for another. Saturday night meetings included food,
entertainment and lectures on topics of current interest.
"The broadest religious tolerance was observed, and
many faiths were represented." In the 1910 Church report,
20 persons were listed by name as officers and members of
the club. No women’s names were included.
1912, the club announced that it had "already accomplished
results beyond our farthest hopes." The club had grown,
and most of its original members were still attending. It
was arranging for a better system of record keeping and
was soliciting contributions for a new clubhouse; one was
reported from a little girl who gave a benefit fair. The
club moved out of the’ Church in about 1914; nothing
is known of it after that time except for Greene’s
report that it maintained good relations with the Emmanuel
Church, which continued to send it new members.
ideas of self-help and mutual support as alcoholism treatment
were not original to the Emmanuel Movement. The best known
historical antecedent was the Washingtonian Movement of
the 1840s, a large group of abstinent alcoholics and nonalcoholic
temperance advocates who achieved brief but spectacular
success at "reforming" drunkards. Some recent
authors have noted that other temperance groups in the following
decades also employed the group-support principle. According
to Levine, "In the latter half of the 19th century
the Sons of Temperance, the Good Templars, and a host of
smaller fraternal groups, functioned in much the same manner
that A.A. does today. They provided addicts who joined their
organizations with encouragement, friendship and a social
life free from alcohol. They went to inebriates in time
of need, and in some cases offered financial support as
well." It is difficult to determine at this distance
whether the founders of the Jacoby Club were familiar with
the earlier organizational forms. The major difference in
the Emmanuel Church work was that it rejected temperance
preaching as a means to attract or help alcoholics.
Worcester was himself a supporter of the idea of temperance,
he had an approach to the problem of the moral status of
alcoholism different’ from that of his temperance
predecessors or scientific successors. Worcester had no
doubt that alcoholism was both a disease and a moral problem.
Addiction involved habit, for him clearly a moral category,
yet he unhesitatingly ranked alcoholism along with tuberculosis,
cancer and syphilis as the four major diseases of his time.
To Worcester, the question of will was irrelevant to alcoholism
and neurasthenia; both were diseases of the whole person
in body, mind and spirit, not merely problems of the faculty
of will. According to Levine, "In 19th and 20th century
versions, addiction is seen as a sort of disease of the
will, an inability to prevent oneself from drinking."
For temperance advocates, this meant that moral exhortation
addressed to the will would be sufficient to keep a person
from drinking. Other historians have described the remedy
for alcoholism espoused by the late nineteenth-century Reform
Clubs and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union as
"gospel temperance" -a moral suasionist attempt
to spark a spiritual rebirth in alcoholics and to get them
to keep a pledge of total abstinence. The task as the Union
Signal put it, was analogous to "Peter preaching to
the gentiles." This same view characterized the mission
approach of the Salvation Army and other turn-of-the-century
comparison, Worcester’s approach ‘was more modern
in totally rejecting moral suasion, as a healing strategy.
Worcester believed that sermons were for normal people:
"Something more than exhortation, argument, or persuasion
is’ necessary.... They may provoke opposition on the
patient’s part or they may even be dangerous."
Something more was needed because more than one aspect of
the personality was involved; like A.A., Worcester felt
that the individual’s entire life was affected and
that an appeal solely to the strengthening of the will would
thus be inadequate. He saw evil as a more basic, pervasive
condition in’ the individual’s life than did
most of his contemporaries, such as the mind—cure
practitioners and those with various scientific approaches,
including the most recent. For Worcester, recovery must
come from surrender to both an external force (as in conversion)
and to the, healing capacities within the subconscious.
to Clinebell, one secret of the Emmanuel Movement’s
success lay in this effort to reduce an alcoholic’s
guilt rather than to increase it as did the other strategies
of the time: "Emmanuel therapy apparently was frequently
able to convey this experience. When guilt is reduced, the
energies previously employed in the guilt and self-punishment
process, are freed and made available for therapeutic Ends.
The alcoholic’s inferiority is reduced... by (his)
becoming aware of his ‘higher and diviner self’
which is his real self." Like others of the Progressive
Era, Worcester had great faith that the human race was improving
and that an enlightened science could help reduce human
suffering. He did not believe that his method was, antagonistic
to medicine or that it was a "mind-cure"; on the
contrary, he believed his method to be more scientific than
that of contemporary physicians who could understand only
the body, without any theoretical comprehension of the importance
of mind and soul. He believed that clergy and physicians
working’ together could accomplish far more than either
alone. Worcester and McComb firmly believed in the essential
goodness of human nature, even of the unconscious mind;
for them the ideal life was a balance of natural inner forces,
not a constant struggle with instincts and impulses. For
Worcester, feeling in itself was never a problem; even painful
emotions such as fear had their useful functions. Kurtz
(Not-God, A History of Alcoholics Anonymous) noted that
Bill Wilson also had a basic acceptance of human instincts,
which for him only became a problem when alcohol, permitted
them to "run riot."
defense of the reality of his patients’ nervous sufferings,
Worcester ‘once stated that he would rather break
both thighs than undergo the pain that some of them experienced.
Worcester and McComb never hesitated to speak of fear, faith,
hope and the spirit; Peabody would not even mention the
word "suffering." His book was, of course, an
offer of hope and help to alcoholics, but Peabody could
not bring himself to name the feelings.
was writing primarily for and working for women, although
he never publicly acknowledged this. In 1908, he earned
the equivalent of a year’s salary writing five enormously
successful articles — including one oh alcoholism
in women-for the Ladies Home Journal. Peabody was writing
self-consciously for men. His examples of schools, clubs
and recreational activities were exclusively those of upper-class
men. He worried about the "manly complex" that
might drive a man back to drink; he urged his readers to
remember that "it is the manly thing to do to give
up drinking because the weakling cannot do it." His
ambivalence about stereotypically female feelings and expressiveness
runs through his work and accounts for many of the ways
in which his methods diverged from those of Worcester and
Baylor must have been a, remarkable man. Constance Worcester
and Faye R. spoke of him with great personal affection,
even many years later. Peabody dedicated his book to him;
Anderson described him: "He had a ‘soothing7
beautiful voice that lulled you but at the same time gave
‘you confidence. It was a voice you could, trust."
Baylor’s effectiveness, he commented: "If I had
been one of those skeptics, who say it is not the therapy
but .the therapist that gets results, he would have been
a shining example; for he was one of the most illuminating
and persuasive personalities I have ever met. However, the
results of his work for four decades of practice and the
success of the people whom he had trained give solid proof
that in this case the value lay in the therapy as well as
the man." Baylor did not confine his work to alcoholism;
his book (Remaking a Man) was intended to help various types
of nervous sufferers, including the shell-shock victims
with whom he began working in 1917.
did not see alcoholics as being fundamentally different
from other people. Every person who drinks, however moderately,
"has a ‘true alcoholic neurosis’ to the
extent that he drinks," since he makes up excuses for
drinking and will not stop without a struggle. Like Worcester,
he was willing to blame alcohol for alcoholism rather than
finding the fault in the individual’s early history.
He believed that all neurosis took the form of alternating
periods of rationalization and excuses. Therefore, the treatment
for alcoholism was not significantly different from the
treatment for other forms of nervous suffering.
fully accepted the Emmanuel Church’s model of social
service and mutual helpfulness for his own work; he did
not foster professional distance between himself and his
patients. According to Constance Worcester, he did not discuss
the fact that he was an alcoholic with outsiders, but, unlike
Peabody, he was direct about this with his patients. He
required mutual confidentiality as a condition of his work:
"Before we get through, I shall have to reveal as much
about myself as you do about yourself." He insisted
that the patient take increasing responsibility for the
work. At the beginning of treatment the patient was informed
that: "You will act in a double capacity: you are to
be patient and physician at the same time." The patient
and instructor "are to study out together certain fundamental
psychological laws, the knowledge of which will enable them
to get to the bottom of that trouble." Baylor’s
goal with a patient was "to so help him to help himself
that his reconstruction will be permanent." Faye R.
reported that his methods were much less formal than those
of Crocker and McKay.
to Baylor, all neuroses, including alcoholism, resulted
from mental and physical "tenseness." He believed
that "the taking of the tabooed drink was ‘the
physical expression of a certain temporary but recurrent
mental condition which appeared to be a combination of wrong
impulses and a wholly false, though plausible, philosophy.
The cause of this mental state was a condition of the brain
"akin to physical tension" during which it "never
senses things as they really are." For example, the
person believes that his troubles are entirely the fault
of other people or circumstances, and does not realize the
extent to which his own depression, fear or irritability
color his perceptions and may actually change the attitude
of others toward him. This leads to more practical problems
and to greater tenseness, which will be expressed in further
drinking or neurotic behavior: "literally a circle
of wrong impulses and false philosophy — each a cause
and a result of the other."
solution, therefore, was first to promote physical and mental
relaxation, and then to examine in a calm frame of mind
those "false, though plausible" attitudes. Ultimately,
the patient should learn permanent relaxation by practicing
the techniques that he has learned. Anderson described this
state as "a combination of ‘suppleness, vitality,
strength and force -a certain definite intentional, elasticity."
Baylor called it peace of mind and stated: "Peace of
mind will do wonders."
believed that his failures resulted from his inability to
gain a patient’s attention; some remnant of spiritual
capacity must be present in order for him to break the "vicious
circle of neurasthenia" - or the patients endless brooding
attention to his troubles. "I fail to get this attention
either because the patient has an innate lack of desire
to change his life and ideas and no spiritual element out
of which to build such a desire, or because he has an actual
mental defect, or because his illness is so deep-seated
and his spiritual side so buried that the stimulus dynamic
enough to reach and arouse him or the time and personal
attention necessary to get through to him have been lacking."
strategy was to supply the person with a "new point
of attention, a’ new philosophy of life, and a new
courage with which to face life." The complex interaction
of ‘body, mind and spirit can be seen here: "attention"
was for Worcester and Baylor both a spiritual and a mental
concept, with both cause and effect in the physical realm.
To attend to good rather than to resist evil, and also to
develop a new sense that life is worthwhile would not only
promote spiritual growth but actually keep some patients
way to redirect a patient’s attention was to provide
a new time focus. The new interest and new point of view
should be "so big and so different that they occupy
the present moment fully and make all of life seem worthwhile."
One strategy that he used for adjusting the ,patient’s
time sense to a normal pace was to speed up or slow down
his own thinking during a therapeutic session to match that
of the patient; he would then take the lead in adjusting
the speed of the patient’s thoughts to a more normal
made no direct reference to the "subconscious"
but it is clear that he regarded it as a vital spiritual
force in redirecting a patient’s attention. Interviews
with patients were "one hundred per cent suggestion,
direct or indirect." There is nothing "weird"
or "uncanny" about this, he explained; it is as
natural as the fact that a salesman’s cheerfulness
has a positive effect on a customer. (Those who believe
that the theory of suggestion is dead might take another
look at modern advertising.) The reeducational work itself,
however, is logical and rational; it proceeds through discussion
of the patient’s past to "analysis and explanation
and definite instruction." Baylor described the results
to be anticipated by the patient as the awakening of a new
part of the mind or spirit: "Because you have recognized
a new function, or another sense perhaps, you will have
a hope that you can handle life instead of having life handle
you." Success with the method would lead to new confidence,
efficiency and happiness; but happiness,he believed, could
not be directly sought.
Worcester’s principle of "resist not evil,"
Baylor did not address phobias directly but worked to eliminate
the background reasons for fears in general; otherwise the
phobia might recur in altered form. Relaxation would make
an alcoholic able to cope with "tense" periods
of his life before they actually leads him to a drink. (The
actual practice of A.A. meetings resembles this "resist
not evil" principle, without using that language; the
bulk. of a recovering alcoholic’s effort is to establish
a foundation of "sober thinking" rather to confront
the alcohol itself directly. A.A. teaches its members to
avoid the recurring periods of "alcoholic thinking"
or "dry drunks" that resemble Baylor’s "tenseness."
a few years of’ experience, Baylor began to realize
that a longer course of treatment was necessary for alcoholics
than what Worcester had provided. Worcester had seen most
alcoholics several times a week for a few weeks or months.
A newspaper ("Preacher-Healer tells of his cures")
reported the case of a woman addicted to alcohol, chloral
and morphine who had been "cured" by Worcester
in seven visits. There was a form of follow-up, however;
she was thereafter required to write him a letter whenever
she felt like taking a drink or a drug. Baylor did not mention
follow-up to treatment, although Faye R. reported that he
and the Peabody therapists were always willingly available
the Annual Report of the "Men’s Department"
Emmanuel Church 1916 Yearbook), Baylor announced: "We
have come to feel that it is unwise to attempt to accomplish
the work in a few interviews, and an agreement is made with
those who come that they will abide by our instructions
for a year, This means that they see us frequently at first.
Periods between visits are then lengthened, a course of
rea4ing is taken up and various exercises are carried through."
A typical interview lasted a half-hour. He described the
long-term difficulties as follows:
the man to stop drinking is only the first step in a very
long march. All the negative traits induced by alcohol must
be eliminated and the positive traits put in their places.
Irritability, self-pity, fear, worry, criticism of friends,
bitter hatred of enemies, lack of concentration, lack, of
initiative and action, all these must be worked out of the
character. The entire mental process must be changed, a
new sense must be grown, one that can recognize the soul;
when this is accomplished we have the man himself cured
to some sources, Baylor was "more worldly" than
‘Worcester and paid more attention to practical problems,
including the effects of alcohol on the family. Worcester
had enlisted the cooperation of the family in. accepting
the goal of sobriety for both the patient and themselves.
Baylor went much further in discussing the specific problems
that family members developed as a result of living with
an alcoholic in the practical, mental and spiritual areas.
Much of Baylor’s time was spent working with relatives;
he recognized the difficulty that they experienced in accepting
an alcoholic who had changed greatly by becoming sober.
He compared the difficulty of this task to a "delicate
surgical operation." He also worked directly with employers
to try to change negative attitudes. Faye R. reported that
he later developed a considerable practice in divorce counseling.
His Social Services Department of ten provided material
assistance to families of alcoholics, whether or not the
alcoholic was in treatment.
did not consider himself a scientist. He felt that his work
was "more than a science; it is also an art."
In the introduction to Remaking a Man, he apologized for
the lack of technical terminology. Peabody, however, took
quite a different tack. In the introduction to his book
he explained that he had simplified his "somewhat technical
vocabulary" so that the average layman can read it
without reference to a dictionary." Neither man had
a college degree. Each brought vital experience to the problem
of alcoholism, but they chose to use it in quite different
had none of Peabody’s professional pretensions, yet
his claim to competence was broader: he believed that he
could understand and influence not only the mind, but the
body and spirit as well. The originators of the Emmanuel
Method did not consider their work to be subordinate to
that of medical professionals; the Rector of Emmanuel Church
initially hired physicians to do routine diagnostic work,
then took over the task of healing when they had failed.
know somewhat more about Worcester and Baylor’s therapeutic
success. In 1908, Dr. Richard C. Cabot of the Harvard Medical
School published a report on the outcome of 178 cases of
all types, including alcoholism, seen by Worcester and McComb
in a six-month period of 1907. Of 22 alcoholics, 11 were
listed as "much improved" or "slightly improved";
seven had unknown outcomes. These rather vague terms do
not reflect the fact that Worcester, during the early months
of this period, was using a technique that he later reported
to Peabody was a total failure - trying to teach his patients
to "drink like gentlemen." Exactly when his approach
changed is not clear.
concluded: "It’ seems possible that the Emmanuel
Movement enjoyed a relatively high degree of success in
providing at least temporary sobriety," based on, Worcester’s
long-term reputation and his own statements. Baylor reported
in 1919 that, of about 100 cases that he had seen personally
in the previously seven years, about two-thirds had been
successful. His annual reports from 1913 to 1916 also refer
to significant numbers of "successful cases" each
year. We do not know how long the patients of either Worcester
or Baylor were able to maintain their abstinence, but Worcester
referred to several who had "stood like rocks in their
place for years."
the early years of the Emmanuel Movement there was almost
no interest within the medical profession in "‘spirit",
or feeling as healing resources. The great majority of psychiatrists
and neurologists were concerned exclusively With somatic
explanations for mental and emotional problems; they believed
that all such problems would ultimately be explained by
reference to "lesions" of the nervous system.
As Grob has noted, late-nineteenth--century and early-twentieth-century
psychiatrists, "having rejected as subjective and unscientific
such affective sentiments as humanity, love and compassion....found
their own supposedly objective and scientific approach to
of the great, influence of Freud on American thinking was
of course his recognition of the role of feelings in various
types of illnesses, both psychosomatic and purely psychological
ones. For Freud, feelings and their conflicts were usually
problematic and the cause of endless human difficulties.
For Worcester, however, the awakening of new spiritual feeling
was essential to the cure of many troubles; positive feelings
in themselves constituted a cure.. Freud, and his followers
also cultivated a dry and austere language, quite the apposite
of the sentimentality of the clergy. By the post-World War
I years, the kind of language of feeling that Worcester
and McComb had used seemed insufficiently "professional"
for physicians; in fact, it was rarely used as a form of
public statement outside the churches.
differences in the two approaches to alcoholism were summed
up by Freud himself in comments he made to a reporter when
visiting this country in 1909. When asked his opinion of
the fact that Worcester and others "claimed to have
cured hundreds of cases of alcoholism and its consequences
by hypnotism, Freud replied, "The suggestive .technique
does not concern itself with the origin, extent, and significance
of the symptoms of the disease, but simply applied a plaster-suggestion-which
it expects to be strong enough to prevent the expression
of the diseased idea. The analytical therapy on the contrary.
. . concerns itself with the origin and progress of the
symptoms of the disease." (Hale, Freud and the Americans:
The Beginning of Psychoanalysis in the United’ States.
1971) According to Hale, "he implied that hypnotism
also was a morally doubtful kind of trickery that resembled
‘the dances of pills of feather-decorated, painted
medicine men.’ He criticized the clergy and others
who practiced without medical degrees: "When I think
that there are many physicians who have been studying methods
of psychotherapy for decades and, who yet practice it only
with the greatest caution, this undertaking of a few men
without medical, or with a very superficial medical training,
seems to me at the very least of questionable good."
He implied that such people might affect the reputation
of his own method: "I can easily understand that this
combination of church and psychotherapy appeals to the public;
for the public has always had a certain weakness for everything
that savors of mysteries and the mysterious, and these it
probably suspects behind psychotherapy, which, in reality
has nothing, absolutely nothing, mysterious about it."
Hale concluded: "Admitting that he knew little about
the Emmanuel Movement, he promptly condemned it."
that the question was somewhat inaccurate (Worcester rarely
used hypnotism), Freud’s response still shows not
only his ignorance of addiction but his lack of interest
in the actual relief of suffering. Rieff (Freud: The Mind
of the Moralist) noted: "Clearly no one so unsentimental
as Freud can be accused of loving humanity, at least not
in the ways encouraged by our religions and their political
derivatives,....He was interested in problems, not patients,
in the mechanisms of civilization not in programs of mental
Hale described it, "Freud at once constructed a counter-image
that became in turn an important psychoanalytic stereotype-
psychoanalysis was austere and difficult, requiring extraordinary
expertise but promising radical cure."
was the narrow model of professional practice available
to Peabody as a therapist of the 1920s. He did not attempt
to imitate the particular techniques of a psychiatrist,
but he systematically eliminated from his terminology and
concepts anything that hinted of the church and "feather-decorated,
painted medicine men." The acknowledgments in his book
include Baylor and six physicians, but he did not mention
the Emmanuel Church. Like the psychoanalysts, Peabody kept
an extreme professional distance from his patients; Wister
reported that all he had ever learned about Peabody personally
was that "Peabody had learned much in Boston from,
two noted psychiatrists and that he had married twice."
Wister also noted that he spoke objectively, as though he
were discussing the proper treatment for a broken leg and
that he never discussed the moral aspects of alcoholism."
Peabody had no credentials and chose not to use his own
experience as the basis for his claim to be a teacher, he
was in a difficult position to justify his fees. The nearly
total lack of interest of the medical profession in working
with alcoholics should have given him a wide field in which
to work, but the only formal reason he could give patients
for coming to him for treatment was that it might speed
up recovery. He quoted a patient approvingly: "I went
to Peabody on the same theory that I would have gone to
an instructor of mathematics had I found it necessary to
learn calculus. Probably I could learn calculus by myself
out of books, but it would take me a great deal longer than
if I went to a competent teacher."
promised in his book to avoid "moralizing"; his
was strictly a "scientific approach." By 1931,
moralizing about alcohol was certainly out of favor, within
his social class at least. The excesses of some of the Prohibition
advocates and the difficulties of enforcing Prohibition
had embarrassed most advocates of such laws into silence.
It was becoming fashionable now to blame the drinker, not
the social institution of drinking, for alcoholism. Peabody
wrote an article on "Why Prohibition Has Failed,"
in which he claimed, in effect, that drinking is a normal
human activity (for men, at least) and should not be tampered
with by mere moralizers.
went a step beyond the anti-Prohibition logic. It was one
thing to claim that ordinary drinkers should not have to
feel guilty for their indulgence, yet quite another to imply
that alcoholics themselves have ho problem with guilt or
shame about their addiction. Nowhere did Peabody recognize
the fact that alcoholics do feel much guilt and remorse
about the trouble that they have caused themselves and others.
Peabody provided no mechanism by which forgiveness and acceptance
could be attained, either in a religious sense or through
a group of similarly afflicted individuals.
men of the Jacoby Club bonded together "to lead a more
honorable life," but Peabody did not use even such
indirect references to guilt or self-esteem. Since neither
morality nor feeling was an acceptable topic of discussion
for Peabody, the only justification he could give for the
effort to become sober was, in effect, "efficiency."
A man must be impressed with the fact that he is, undergoing
treatment for his own personal good and because he believes
it to be the expedient thing to do."
major practical drawback to excessive drinking cited specifically’
by Peabody was its "supreme stupidity." His explanation
was designed to appeal to the patient’s respect for
‘his own masculinity: "Just as all normal boys
are anxious not to be considered incompetent in athletics,
so to be thought stupid is the last thing that a full-grown
man with any pretense to normality wishes. Even in prisons
drunkards are held in low repute by criminals because they
are where they are as a result of inferior intelligence
rather than a distorted moral point of view."
seems curious now that Peabody did not attempt to resolve
the moralizing problem by calling alcoholism a disease or
an illness. The disease concept was certainly, available
to him-the Emmanuel Movement had used it freely, and it
had been current in some circles of temperance workers and
physicians since the late nineteenth century. Diseases,
however, are ordinarily understood to have some connection
with the body and Peabody’s basic philosophical orientation
seemed derived from the mind-cure movement, including Christian
Science, which essentially denied the significance of the
body and was interested only in the mind as a means for
controlling an individual’s life. Many of Peabody’s
therapeutic suggestions resemble a secularized version of
the writings on mind-cure and self-help dating from the
1890s. His work was thus a strange amalgam of these ideas
and the quite different philosophical and psychological
ideas of Worcester and McComb.
had begun his clinic work partly in response to the apparent
healing successes of Christian Science. He viewed their
theology and that of New Thought as shallow and materialistic,
however, and little resemblance existed between his tripartite
view of the person and the idea in mind-cure that pure thought
can be used to eliminate disease and to produce increased
efficiency and business success. Christian Science denied
the reality of bodily suffering altogether and of course
had no use for the medical profession. Mary Baker Eddy did
not believe in the existence of the unconscious, and other
mind-cure writers "far from teaching an open-door policy
toward the subconscious. . . taught absolute denomination
According to Meyer ( The Positive Thinkers. .Religion as
Pop Psychology from Mary Baker Eddy to Oral Roberts ) the
central tenet of mind—cure was that "God was
Mind....The crucial aim in this characterization was that
it should guarantee a self-enclosed and coherent existence....Mind
was above all the realm in which people might feel that
life came finally under control." Christian Science,
and later mind-cure expressed no interest in human service
(a fact commented on quite sarcastically by both Mark Twain
and Elwood Worcester), which might account for Peabody’s
lack of interest in it.
continued to use several important ideas he had learned
from Baylor: surrender, relaxation, suggestion and catharsis.
His development and reformulation of some of these -particularly
surrender and, suggestion- was much more specific to and
useful for an alcoholic’s particular situation than
the formulations of Worcester and Baylor.
was very clear about the new priorities for a reordered
life: "The first step to sobriety is surrender to the
fact that the alcoholic cannot drink again without bringing
disastrous results" and "this surrender is the
absolute starting point. The conviction of its supreme importance
is an absolute necessity. With surrender, halfway measures
are of no avail." This was undoubtedly the source of
Bill Wilson’ s better known phrase: "Half measures
avail us nothing." Peabody noted that an "intellectual
surrender by no means settles the question," but he
did not discuss the emotional aspect of such surrender.
He did detail some of the obstacles to it, included "distorted
‘pride" and the conviction that drinking is "smart"
patient, must also have a conviction that he needs help.
Peabody sometimes made a prospective patient convince him
of the fact that he was truly an alcoholic. He would not
accept a patient unless "he can say that he would like
to be shown how to reconstruct his mental. processes so
that in due time he will no longer want to drink."
used the same relaxation technique employed by Worcester
and Baylor, although he was somewhat defensive about it:
"I appreciate that this relaxation-suggestion phase
of the treatment may sound like hocus-pocus to those who
have never tried it." He justified relaxation in part
on the grounds of efficiency - on the grounds that a person
could accomplish more work in a day with less effort if
the exercise were done daily. They could also be used as
mental training to avoid "displays of temper, baseless
apprehensions, shyness, and other unpleasant moods, not
by trying to support them, but by finding out why they exist
and anticipating occasions which might create them."
The regular practice of relaxation would prevent the "accumulation
of emotional tension." He devoted only one page to
the physical aspects of the treatment, including exercise.
had wider uses, Peabody defined its most useful form for
alcoholics as "driving home platitudes as if they were
profundities over and over again." ( It is very likely
not a coincidence that this is the basic organizational
principle of A.A. meetings ) The therapist supplied these
suggestions during relaxation sessions and the patient was
to repeat them nightly at bedtime. Peabody also assigned
readings and the daily copying out of simple statements
that he supplied one at a time as the patient was ready.
his predecessors, Peabody appreciated the significance of
catharsis, although none of the three used that term. They
all provided an opportunity for a patient to discuss his
drinking history and earlier life experiences. Peabody saw
this as a more formal task of analysis (in a somewhat Freudian
sense) than did the’ others; it was not merely an
emotional purging for the patient, but an opportunity for
the therapist to point out the causes of the individual’s
drinking. Peabody’s ideas about the causes of alcoholism
will be discussed further below.
Worcester and Baylor, Peabody did not regard the unconscious
as necessarily helpful. It was the repository of excuses,
denial and: other obstacles to permanent abstinence, as
well as the ever dangerous emotions it was the mental scrap
heap to which the desire to drink must ultimately be relegated.
The unconscious also needed to be "taught," and
the method of teaching it was through thought control. "The
most important element in the work (is) the control and
direction of the thoughts toward the ultimate logical goal."
All negative thoughts must be stopped and positive ones
substituted; "When at length the mind is diverted,
the unconscious, which is supposed to retain all memories,
must be left with a true picture of the whole situation
and the individual’s intellectual attitude toward
most distinctive aspect of Peabody’s method was his
plan for time control. He described it: Before going to
bed the patient should write down on a piece of paper the
different hours of the following day, beginning with the
time of arising. Then, so far as can be determined beforehand,
he should fill in these hours with what he plans to do.
Throughout the day notations should be made if exceptions
have occurred in the original plans, and it should be indicated
whether these exceptions have been due to legitimate or
rationalized excuses.... Small as well as larger activities
that are taken up should not be dropped until completed
unless they are in a sense unknown quantities, entered upon
for the purposes of investigation only. Several pages of
instructions follow. Peabody emphasized that the spirit
in which the time plan is followed was more important than
accuracy. Its functions were to (1) give the, patient something
concrete to do to change his condition, (2) provide the
patient with "training in executing his own commands"
and (3) prevent idleness. Regarding this last point he quoted
Stekel: "Earthly happiness….. is primarily dependent
upon our relationship to time." Following this regimen
might well have helped the patient to develop a new sense
of responsibility, since he had to be accountable to his
therapist for his actions every day. Peabody, however, did
not discuss responsibility.
R. recalled that her therapists told her to break down the
schedule into 30-minute units. Marty Mann reported that
one Peabody patient whom she knew carried time cards with
him in his shirt pocket so that he would never be far from
his discussions of time and impulse control, Peabody appeared
less like the psychiatrist and more like the industrial
engineer perfecting his efficiency and productivity. He
is also the military officer planning in advance so that
his troops would not mutiny while he slept. He compared
the time exercises to "close order drill"; discipline,
not character, was his security. "In battle it has
been proved over and over again that large hordes of individually
brave but untrained men can accomplish little when opposed
by a smaller but disciplined military group -so with the
alcoholic and his temptation. He cannot expect consistently
to conquer his enemy in every drawing room and country—club
porch if he has made no advance preparation."
apparently expected the self to remain deeply divided; balance
of any sort must have seemed unattainable to him because
he recommended that constant vigilance be exercised against
endlessly threatening, feelings. Wister reported that Peabody
had told him: "I want you to begin thinking of yourself
as two selves. There’s your intellectual self and
your emotional self. This intellectual self is a good self,
the logical self. Its your best self...Now there’s
the other self, the emotional self. It’s always there
and it is right that it should always be there. But it is
the side that wants to drink....But thought control will
shrink it down so that it becomes much smaller than the
good ‘self. You must reconcile both selves. But you
must permit the intellectual side to dominate."
the factory manager, again noted: "Every phase of this
therapy is governed by a time element. You will eventually
learn to master your emotions and you will sit, intellectually,
in the driver’s seat. For a time, however, you will
have to direct your mental processes by hand . Later they
will operate automatically." (This statement is exactly
the opposite of A.A.s recommendation: "Get out of the
driver’s seat.") Nowhere did Peabody speak of
patients acquiring new feelings, desires or interests Other
than "hobbies"- his limited aim was that they
be free of one destructive desire. Alcoholics must "train
their minds so that they no longer wish to drink."
Clearly, Peabody "resisted evil" as strongly as
is difficult to imagine that efficiency, expediency and
time management could provide sufficient inspiration to
transform active alcoholism into a lifetime of sobriety.
It was a far cry from Worcester’s promise of reawakened
spiritual powers or Baylor’s hope for "recognition
of the soul;" A life of mere efficiency and the systematic
suppression of feelings, organized in hours or half-hours,
certainly resembles Crosby’s description of the atmosphere
in which Peabody grew up: a "strange muted life, uneventful
and unjoyful". and a "tiptoe discipline (which)
ticked on a train-like schedule." Such an arrangement
might achieve freedom from alcohol, but it is much less
clear what that freedom was for.
Peabody, indulgence of feeling and lack of discipline were
the causes, of alcoholism. He discounted heredity as causative,
claiming instead that improper family circumstances lead
to a "nervous condition," which "in turn
induces alcoholism." He described his typical patient
as a first or only son, suffering from a fear of maternal
domination: he was "pampered and overprotected"
as a child and drank to resolve his conflicts about achieving
manhood. The patient "had unconsciously to choose between
becoming a timid mother’s darling, completely surrendering
his own personality, or putting up an exaggerated opposition.
Of the two he unquestionably chose the wiser course."
The typical mother ‘was "domineering and prudish"
and the typical father was shy, with periods of despondency.
Ultimately, the parents were responsible for the child’s
alcoholism. "The resulting character, is the fault
of the parents, though in the use of the word "fault"
we do not wish to conjure up an ethical concept so much
as one of ignorance and lack of self-control."
writers on this topic were not as delicate about the use
of the "ethical concept." Much of Bishop’s
fictionalized biography of Wister is an essay on his mother’s
faults, on how she caused and encouraged his alcoholism.
Strecker and Chambers were much more pointed in their insistence
that mothers be blamed for the sins of their sons. Peabody
did not single out mothers in particular. In a series of
writings employing Peabody’s ideas, Strecker and Chambers’s
denunciation of women and their insistence that men control
women became increasingly shrill. In the book Their Mother’s
Sons, the psychiatrist Strecker reached new depths in denouncing
mothers for virtually every faulty male act of the World
War II era, much like Philip Wylie’s better known
Generation of Vipers. None of these writers informed us
what the cause of alcoholism in women might be.
Peabody’s method was widely practiced for about two
decades, little is known of its overall therapeutic success,
and an accurate guess is impossible at this date. Marty
Mann concluded that Peabody and his therapists "accomplished
a heroic work during the 1930’s, when little else
was being done for alcoholics" and that the method
"was effective with a considerable number"’
of patients. It is known that a few remained abstinent and
professionally active in the field of alcoholism. Others
who failed at the Peabody method were known to have joined
A.A. in its early years, but it is impossible to determine
how many remained quietly sober without joining A.A. or
professional groups. The fact that several of the Peabody
method’s major practitioners - apparently including
the founder - were not able to maintain their sobriety,
however, does not bode well for other patients with whom
contact was lost.
major significance of Peabody’s work was probably
not its long term therapeutic success but the hope that
it gave, both to the researchers in the early scientific
study.’ of alcoholism and to early A.A. members, that
alcoholism was a treatable condition and a worthy topic
for further research and investigation. In their review
of the treatment literature, Bowman and Jellinek concluded,
"In this country, Peabody has probably exerted more
influence than anyone else on the psychotherapy of alcohol
addiction," The writings of Peabody and of Strecker
and Chambers reached a far wider audience than Baylor’s
book ever had. By the 1930s, the Emmanuel Movement had almost
been forgotten. Even if the physicians and other professionals
of the late l930s and early 1940s had known of Worcester
and Baylor’s work, they undoubtedly would have rejected
it as too religious for their own use. A.A. methods could
not be used directly by professional therapists, since these
methods depended on a group of recovering alcoholics. The
tone and style of Peabody’s writing was undoubtedly
far more agreeable to professional practitioners by the
end of Prohibition. The Peabody model was actively used
in the Yale Plan Clinics, which employed both individual
therapy and the class method of teaching similar to what
Worcester had originally used. These class sessions were
published verbatim in several issues of the Quarterly Journal
of Studies on Alcohol and were very likely influential in
the practice of other early clinics.
difference between Worcester’s and Peabody’s
work is in part accounted for by the spirit of the times
when they developed their work. Elwood Worcester was 50
years old when World War I began; Richard Peabody was 20.
Although Worcester incorporated some psychoanalytic concepts
in his later work, he never altered his conviction that
human nature was basically good and that the "subconscious"
was a useful ally of consciousness. For Peabody, who had
fought at Chateau-Thierry, those assumptions had become
untenable. More congenial to his generation were the ideas
of Freud, for whom the mind was an endless battleground
of life and death instincts that could be kept in check
only by the eternally vigilant forces of’ civilization.
Peabody’s understanding of human life was thus more
modern than Worcester’s. For the younger man, life
was an endless struggle, not so much between conscious and
unconscious forces, but between sober reason on the one
hand and feeling (equated with intoxication) on the other.
A tone of postwar despair and depression permeated his work.
Writing in 1919, Baylor used relatively little of Worcester’s
inspirational religious language, although he retained his
basically spiritual view of the recovery process. Writing
in 1930, Peabody had abandoned the spiritual language and
the postwar pessimism did not similarly affect Bill Wilson,
who was Peabody’s close contemporary and who also
fought in World War I. Wilson’s writings retained
the language of another turn-of-the-century Protestant source,
the Oxford Groups, through which he had initially stopped
drinking. Many people, including new A.A. members and professionals,
have reacted to his language in Alcoholics Anonymous, the
primary A.A. sourcebook, as anachronistic and overly sentimental.
It is essentially the same kind of style that was popular
in Worcester’s time, with the same indomitable optimism
and confidence in the efficacy of spiritual ideas. It contrasts
sharply with today’s professional therapeutic language.
is hard for us now to accept Worcester’s optimism
about the human race or his conviction that our inner impulses
are always beneficent ones. There are still no more than
a few of us, as Murphy (Historical Introduction to ‘Modern
Psychology) noted, who can understand his vision of the,
unity of the mystical and material worlds; our culture has
trained us for so long to keep them rigidly separated. Worcester
also could not give us an explanation of suffering. Like
A.A., he had only a theory of progress and improvement not
a theory of evil.
is probably unfortunate from the long-term point of view
of treatment that the "scientific" interest in
alcoholism that developed in the 1930s could find professionally
acceptable only the rather limited approach of Peabody.
The International Bibliography of Studies on Alcohol (Keller)
does not even list the writings of Worcester and Baylor.
Apparently, its definition of "science" was not
broad enough even to include, the Emmanuel Movement, at
least in the English speaking world. Perhaps, if we had
adopted the broader concept of a Geistwissenschaft as Worcester
— and perhaps also Freud - understood it, we would
not be embroiled in such continuing problems with understanding
the proper scope of the terms "science" and "disease."
one can conclude that the Emmanuel approach probably deserved
its reputation for greater therapeutic success, since it
used several of the major strategies that were later proved
successful in related form by A.A. From the point of view
of recovery, far more has’ been accomplished in the
past 50 years by those who appreciated Worcester’s
paradox - that the unmanageability of life may be turned
around by relaxing, control, not by ever more frenzied efforts
to regain it.
with permission from Alcohol Research Documentation,
Inc., publisher of the Quarterly Journal of Studies
on Alcohol (now the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and