Believe It or Not, Nude Psychotherapy Used To Be A Thing—And Even The APA President Supported It

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared an article with me that offered a historical review of the “nude psychotherapy” movement in psychology. Wait—what? As I began to read it, I learned that in the 1960s and 70s, some psychologists were getting naked with their patients with the hope of getting them more in touch with their “true” or “authentic” selves.

Somehow, I had never heard about this before. It wasn’t covered in any of my graduate school training, and it certainly didn’t appear in any of the textbooks I had read. Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued, so I did a deep dive to find out everything that I could. I wrote up my findings in a recent column over at TONIC—and, trust me, it’s well worth a read.

The short version is that, about a half-century ago, psychologist Paul Bindrim began running nude psychotherapy sessions with as many as two dozen participants at a time in which people would strip down and start sharing their most intimate secrets with one another. Bindrim claimed that his workshops could help people lead happier, more fulfilling lives and improve their relationships, and he became a media sensation. 

He received a lot of favorable press coverage in major outlets and even had the backing of the president of the American Psychological Association (APA) at the time, Abraham Maslow (a name you are undoubtedly familiar with if you ever took an introductory psychology course—he’s the guy who came up with the hierarchy of needs). The fact that Maslow publicly backed this therapeutic approach is one of the most fascinating parts of this story to me. Maslow, who died in 1970, was a towering figure in the field and his work continues to be extremely influential to this day; however, no one talks about his support for nude psychotherapy, or the fact that he wrote in his book Eupsychian Management that “nudism…is itself a form of therapy.”

The nude psychotherapy movement died shortly after Maslow did because without his backing, Bindrim’s work just didn’t have the same legitimacy. It’s fascinating to wonder what might have come of this movement had Maslow not passed away prematurely. 

To learn more about what went on during nude psychotherapy sessions and how this practice is viewed in the field today, check out the full article over at TONIC.

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Image Source: 123RF/Ronnarong Thanuthattaphong 

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