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The Rapid Expansion of (Mainstream) Health Psychology in France : Historical foundations
Journal of Health Psychology
This article traces the historical evolution of ongoing theoretical debates in psychology in France from the 1940s until today. Its aim is to show how the conjunction of certain conditions was determinant for a rapid expansion of American-derived mainstream health psychology during the 1980s. The authors describe the French context in the post-World War II period that made possible the introduction of psychology courses at the university, which included the tensions between two epistemological orientations: experimental psychology and clinical psychology, the latter partly inspired by Politzer’s concrete psychology. We also outline the process that led to the implementation of ‘clinical psychology in health settings’ in the 1950s, under the influence of Daniel Lagache. Furthermore, the strong critiques that were made to the new psychology profession in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s are examined against oppositions among psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers and psychoanalysts. Moreover, we discuss how under turbulent conditions, a pragmatic-oriented psychology arriving from the United States was smoothly and rapidly introduced in France during the 1980s, promoting a socio-cognitive framework and offering new career perspectives. But the French dissension to this new sub-discipline will also be considered. Finally, our conclusion reflects upon future implications of ongoing rivalries between different approaches to psychology. It underlines a growing interest in critical perspectives developed in Anglo-Saxon cultures which are being applied, by French academics and practitioners who work in psychology in health settings.
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