Impactful Women in the field of Mental Health

One final good-bye to the month of March, which is termed “Women’s History Month,” which first started as a week in length in 1981 in order to honor and commemorate the impactful contributions to American history and “the vital role of women” in history and culture throughout the United States. Since 1995, this observance began to span to the full month of March to incorporate and acknowledge women’s significant achievements in various fields. With the end of March in rear view, 1Alliance CPS wants to pay homage to a few women pioneers who have helped to shape the field of psychotherapy and mental health. Through their cumulative research and passion for helping those in need, most modern approaches to mental health services have been forever changed due to the important work of these women.

Jane Addams (1860-1935)
In 1889 and under Addams direction, the Hull House team (supported my a number of women workers) was established as the first settlement house in the United States. This house “provided an array of vital services to thousands of people each week: they established a kindergarten and day-care for working mothers; provided job training; English language, cooking, and acculturation classes for immigrants; established a job-placement bureau, community center, gymnasium, and art gallery.” Addams was active in the women’s suffrage movement as an officer in the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and pro-suffrage columnist. She was also among the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “Social work pioneer Jane Addams was one of the first women to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded in 1931. Known best for establishing settlement houses in Chicago for immigrants in the early 1900s, Addams was a dedicated community organizer and peace activist.” She was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Her work was significant to the field of Social Work and she is esteemed a dear pioneer in that field.

Karen Horney (1885-1952)
Karen Horney was a neo-Freudian psychologist known for her theory of neurotic needs, and her research on feminine psychology. Her contributions span influence in humanism, self-psychology, psychoanalysis, and feminine psychology. Of note, she particularly introduced the concept of womb envy, which was a counter argument to Freud’s theories about penis envy. “Horney also believed that people were able to act as their own therapists, emphasizing the personal role each person has in their own mental health and encouraging self-analysis and self-help.” She was a major theorist in a time period dominated by men and offered a new way of addressing the psychology of women. Her theories on neurosis are still used today.

Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983)
Psychologist and activist Mamie Phipps Clark’s studies on race and child development was extremely influential and revolutionary in addressing the end of segregation in the United States. In her early work, Mamie Clark found that African American children develop a consciousness of themselves as black at a young age. Her master’s dissertation at Columbia University was entitled, “The Development of Consciousness of Self in Negro Pre-School Children”, which addressed racial identity and awareness in young Black children. In 1943, she became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in psychology from that institution. Mamie and her husband’s (Kenneth Clark)’s research on children and race further showed that black children realized “society’s negative view of blackness at about 3 years old.” “She also founded the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem, which has eased that community through social, educational, and psychological changes for half a century.” This research became the foundation fro the NAACP’s case in Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned racial segregation in public schools in 1954.

Marsha Linehan (1943-present)
Marsha Linehan is “the developer of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a treatment originally developed for the treatment of suicidal behaviors and since expanded to treatment of borderline personality disorder and other severe and complex mental disorders, particularly those that involve serious emotion dysregulation. In comparison to all other clinical interventions for suicidal behaviors, DBT is the only treatment that has been shown effective in multiple trials across several independent research sites. It has been shown both effective in reducing suicidal behavior and cost-effective in comparison to both standard treatment and community treatments delivered by expert therapists. It is currently the gold-standard treatment for borderline personality disorder.” She is the author of treatment manual and other books and had been honored by numerous professional organizations for her research, publications and contributions to the field of mental health. Some of those organizations are: the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, the American Association of Suicidology, the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology, and the Society of Clinical Psychology, to name a few. She founded Behavioral Tech LLC, which provides DBT training to mental health professionals. She retired as a Professor Emeritus of Psychology in the Department of Psychology from the University of Washington in 2019.