Our Detailed History
At the beginning of the 20 th century, the German speaking countries played an important role in the development of psychotherapy as a recognized therapeutic approach to address the suffering of people with mental disorders. In 1926 and 1927, the first international conferences on psychotherapy were held in Baden-Baden and Bad Nauheim, Germany (Heim, 2010). Probably in 1928, during the third international congress, Ernst Kretschmer from Tübingen founded the “Allgemeine Ärztliche Gesellschaft für Psychotherapie“, AÄGP, serving as its president until 1934. This was one of the first membership organizations for the emerging profession of psychotherapists. The AÄGP soon developed into a society with members from various countries. It was therefore temporarily named “Überstaatliche AÄGP” (supranational AÄGP), then “Internationale AÄGP”, until on the occasion of the seventh international psychotherapy congress, again in Bad Nauheim, the “International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy” IGMSP was inaugurated. Carl Gustav Jung from Zurich, Switzerland, was elected to serve as the first President of the IGMSP.
World War II brought the activities of the IGMSP to a halt. After the war, the organization of world congresses resumed as early as 1948 in London, UK. Interestingly, the theme of the London conference was “The problem of guilt in psychotherapy”! However, it was only in 1958 at the world congress in Barcelona, Spain, when the “International Federation for Medical Psychotherapy“ IFMP was formally established as the successor organization of the “Internationale AÄGP”. Medard Boss, Switzerland, had been holding the somewhat loose threads together since 1954 already. He became the first president of the IFMP, serving in that role until 1967. Subsequently, Boss was succeeded by Pierre-Bernard Schneider, Switzerland, (1967- 1979), Finn Magnussen, Norway, (1979-1988), and Edgar Heim, Switzerland, (1988-1998).
During Edgar Heim’s presidency, the IFMP lost its “M”: Given the increasing number of clinical psychologists training and working as psychotherapists, and, even more so, engaging in psychotherapy research, the Board of Directors then decided to open up the Federation and invite psychological associations to join as equal partners the group of professional membership organizations that had until then been medical associations exclusively. Thus, in 1991, the Federation dropped “Medical” and was renamed into “International Federation for Psychotherapy” (IFP).
In 2003, IFP Past President and Honorary Member Edgar Heim had officially been mandated by the IFP Board to write up the history of the IFP. He collected minutes of Board meetings, correspondence between members, congress proceedings, and other historical documents related to the IFP. Edgar Heim ended up producing a compelling account of the development of psychotherapy, with a special emphasis on organizational aspects of that development during the 20 th century. This highly informative document was published both in German, as a book, and in English, as a Supplement to the IFP’s official journal, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (Heim, 2009; 2010).
The German speaking countries continued to be well represented among the IFP’s membership societies as well as on its Board of Directors: Wolfgang Senf, Essen, Germany, served as president 1998-2002, followed by Ulrich Schnyder, Zurich, Switzerland (2002-2010), then Franz Caspar, Bern, Switzerland (2010-2014), notably IFP’s first president with a background as psychologist. In addition, Alfried Längle, Vienna, Austria, and Michael Rufer, Zurich, Switzerland, served as Board members. With over 1’400 participants, the 20 th IFP World Congress in Lucerne, Switzerland, reached an all-time high in attendance. It was during this period that regional IFP conferences and workshops were introduced and held in various countries (Singapore 2003, Amsterdam 2004, Taipei 2005, Hangzhou 2006, Venice 2006, Zurich 2006, Shanghai 2007, Hannover 2008, Jakarta 2008, Vienna 2008, Zurich 2009, Jakarta 2010, Zurich 2010, Cebu 2011, Rome 2011). Also, a Research Committee was established and the IFP started granting an “IFP Award” on a regular basis. Of note, for the first time in 20 years, the 21 st IFP World Congress was once again held in an Asian country: Shanghai, China, hosted a very successful congress in 2014. Paul Emmelkamp’s presidential term lasted from 2014-2018, with the 22 nd IFP World Congress being organized in his home town, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in 2018. During this congress, the IFP Council elected their first non-European IFP president, Driss Moussaoui from Casablanca, Morocco. The current Board of Directors is formed by Franz Caspar (Zurich, Switzerland), François Ferrero (Geneva, Switzerland), and Fiammetta Cosci (Florence, Italy), and supported by two presidential advisors, Norman Sartorius (Geneva, Switzerland) and Ulrich Schnyder (Zurich, Switzerland).
The 20 th and beginning 21 st century have seen an unprecedented rise of psychotherapy as an effective treatment for a majority of mental disorders. Over the decades, what was previously regarded as far off current scientific standards has developed into a discipline based on sound scientific principles. Today, psychotherapy can be seen as one of the most powerful therapeutic approaches in medicine. The IFP has always seen psychotherapy as a culturally sensitive and scientifically based discipline (which must not necessarily preclude us from seeing psychotherapy as an art as well), meaning that advancement of psychotherapeutic practice should go hand in hand with innovations in psychotherapy research. Clinicians should learn from researchers about the efficacy and effectiveness (or lack thereof) as well as about adverse side effects of specific psychotherapeutic approaches or techniques. Conversely, researchers should listen to clinicians in order to generate clinically relevant and meaningful research questions and hypotheses (cited from Schnyder, 2010). Today, mutual learning between clinicians and researchers, and a culture-sensitive approach to psychotherapy are the basic principles of the IFP’s mission statement.
In 2023, the IFPs name changed to the World Federation of Psychotherapy (WFP).