The ducking treatment was never widely used, primarily because of the risk of death
to the patient. Nevertheless, the idea slowly evolved into what became known as the
bain de surprise, or bath of surprise, in which the patient was plunged into water without
warning. The element of shock was considered essential to the procedure, which led to
a fanciful design to insure sudden and unexpected immersion.
Joseph Guislain, Traité sur l'aliénation mentale
et sur les hospices de aliénés. Amesterdam: J.
van der Hey et Fils, 1826.
(Click on image to enlarge)
The douche for calming mentally
Raymond de Saussure, "Philippe Pinel
and the reform of the insane asylum"
Ciba Symposia, v. 11, 1950.
In keeping with available technology (and
the ad hoc nature of much of early
psychiatry), hydrotherapy as advocated by
Helmont was performed outdoors, in a sea
or pond. However, as institutions for the
insane became increasingly widespread in
the 18th century, water therapy moved
indoors, inspiring the development of a wide
variety of hydrotherapeutic apparatus.
The douche, or shower bath, was another early hydrotherapeutic method. It consisted of
pouring cold water from a height over a patient's head to lessen the heat of madness or
rouse the melancholic. Warm or tepid baths were also used to calm overwrought nerves or
to induce sleep.