Freud's Couch Tour: Students Experience Psychology Firsthand in London, Paris

Nebraska Wesleyan University senior Erik Anderson hopes to become a licensed mental health practitioner someday.

Students sit in Freud's backyard visiting with a Freud family friendHe’s required to take the course “History and Systems” to meet his psychology degree requirements. Memorizing names and dates and cramming for tests isn’t the best way to remember his coursework, he said. But an opportunity to tour the hospital where initial efforts were made to humanize mental health treatment, or the chance to see Sigmund Freud’s infamous couch will likely leave a lasting impression.

“It was an opportunity to see many of the things that one so often only has the chance to read about in text books,” said Anderson.

Thirteen students and psychology professor Jerry Bockoven have returned from a 10-day academic experience in Paris and London. The trip — dubbed by Bockoven as “Freud’s Couch Tour” — took students to Freud’s Museum, which houses many of the physiologist’s artifacts including the couch where psychotherapy was born. In London, students visited the Galton Collection and learned the stories behind the man who was among the first to measure intelligence. In Paris, students visited Pitie’-Salpetriere Hospital, where the worldwide reform of mental health treatment began.

“I think what the students gained from the trip was an appreciation of the reality of the history of psychology,” said Bockoven. “The people who did things and went on to be historical were not just names in a book.

“They were real people who went to college, had challenges, believed in something they found to be important, and tried to make the world a better place, just like our students,” Bockoven continued.

Junior Rachel Evert said studying psychology in addition to seeing the Eiffel Tower, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge and eating European foods, she appreciated the historical lessons needed for her career path.

“I learned that without knowing the history of where my choice of study came from, I can’t even begin to help move it forward,” said Evert. “A trip like this is important because it shows us that our area of study isn’t just here where we live but it’s significant everywhere.”

Upon their return home, students spent a week in the classroom where Bockoven — in a traditional classroom format — taught the history of psychology from beginning to end. The benefit, he said, was that students could easily relate to their studies having seen their lessons firsthand.

“This trip helped me step into the shoes of the people who we learned about and see the things they saw,” said Anderson. “This will stick with me longer than the cramming that may or may not happen before a test.”

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