In this groundbreaking "cultural history of psychotherapy, " historian and psychologist Philip Cushman shows how the development of modern psychotherapy is inextricably intertwined with that of the United States and how it has fundamentally changed the way Americans view events and themselves. Using an interpretive historical approach, Cushman shows how and why psychotherapy was created, what its functions are, and how it has come to play such an enormous role in American life. Asserting that each era develops a different conception of "what it means to be human, " Cushman traces the evolution of the self throughout history to contemporary times, naming its current configuration in our consumerist society the "empty self, " one that needs constant filling. In Constructing the Self, Constructing America, he places psychotherapy in its social and historical context, and examines its origins in the nineteenth century to its preeminence in American life today, arguing that its establishment as a social institution may in fact reproduce some of the very ills that it is meant to heal. Finally, in an unusual move, Cushman suggests a way to use interpretive methods in the everyday practice of psychotherapy. By doing so, he hopes to dissuade both patient and therapist from colluding with the empty self or the rampant consumerism of our time.