Remotivation Therapy-The Beginning

Submitted by guest blogger: Denise Lima-Laskiewicz  ADC/EDU, ICRmT

In the early part of the 20th century no one ever heard of Remotivation Therapy.  Where did this concept come from?  Who created this idea and why was it created?

Remotivation Therapy was created by Dorothy Hoskins Smith in the 1940’s.  She taught at Claremont College and the class was English literature.  She moved to Massachusetts during WWII when she decided to do some volunteer work.  The location that she chose was the Northampton Veterans Administration Hospital.  In 1949, the facility asked her to develop a public speaking course for the clients that were in the facility.  Mrs. Smith became interested in the patients that were mute and some of them had not spoken in many years.  Mrs. Smith remembered a technique that she used when she taught a class of school children at an elementary school were the children were restless.  The students could be brought to attention when someone read poems that were strongly rhythmical.

She entered a unit where men lived who were withdrawn and silent. She selected seven individuals to be a part of the group.  Dorothy began her program but the residents were not receptive to the idea. All of the men hid under the piano that was in the middle of the room.  Dorothy was determined to try again.  She sat down at the piano and read “The Santa-Fe Trail”.  The poem was written by Rachel Lindsay.  One by one the men came out from beneath the piano.  They were attracted by the rhythm of the poem.  All seven men sat in a circle, to listen to Dorothy read the poem.  Then she asked questions that were related to the Santa-Fe.  One of the men in the group responded to the question.  This was a huge success! Another man asked her read the poem again.   The meeting was such a success that the group increased to fourteen people.  The veterans, who were silent in the past read the poems aloud.  Also, some of them were answering questions with sensible answers.

Dorothy knew that what she witnessed was a success.  She knew that others would benefit from what she discovered.  She trained staff in state hospitals in New Jersey and a hospital in California, named Stockton State Hospital.  Although Dorothy proved that her method worked, the real challenge occurred at the Philadelphia State Hospital. She gave a talk to the staff then after the meeting a nurse approached Dorothy.  The nurse informed Dorothy that her ward had the most regressed patients on it.  The nurse wanted to see if her patients would respond to remotivation therapy.   Dorothy went to the ward where 12 women were sitting in circle.

Before Dorothy began she shook hands with each patient whereas the patients responded with smiles.  She read a few passages from “Hiawatha” then she asked questions about the passage.   One woman answered who had not spoken in a year.  Several others participated in the question and answer section.  Dorothy then asked one woman to read a passage.  This patient had been quiet for so long that the staff never heard her say a word.  Dorothy made up an excuse why she was not able to read the passage.  The woman agreed to ask to borrow her glasses to read the passage.  After that moment, the training classes were organized at the hospital to teach remotivation therapy.

Dorothy’s belief in remotivation therapy pioneered a new concept to aid residents and patients in clinical settings.  Patients were remotivated to be active participants in their lives again.  Remotivation therapy is a powerful tool to aid residents in clinical settings in today’s society as well as back then.

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