Will Psychoanalysis Fulfill Its Promise?

By Wallerstein, Robert S. | International Journal of Psychoanalysis, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Will Psychoanalysis Fulfill Its Promise?


Wallerstein, Robert S., International Journal of Psychoanalysis


Although Freud had aspirations of a university structure for psychoanalytic education the sociopolitical structure of the Austro-Hungarian empire precluded this, and psychoanalysis developed by default in the central European heartland within a part-time, private-practice educational structure. With its rapid spread in the post-World-War-II United States, and its ready penetration of American academic psychiatry, a counter educational structure arose in some quarters: the department- of-psychiatry-affiliated institute within the medical school. This article outlines beyond these other, more ambitious, academic vistas (the David Shakow model, the Anna Freud model, the Menninger Foundation, Emory University (USA), AP de BA (Argentina)); conceptions even closer to the ideal (idealized) goal of full-time placement within the university, with strong links to medicine, to the behavioral sciences and to the humanities. The putative advantages of such a structure are presented.

Keywords: autonomous institute within the university, independent psychoanalytic institute, department-of-psychiatry-affiliated institute, psychoanalytic research

The psychoanalysis innovated almost singlehandedly by the genius of Sigmund Freud, with the publication of his originating papers on hypnosis and suggestion and then Studies on Hysteria (1893-95) with his first co-worker Josef Breuer in the 1890s, is now well past its first century mark. It, along with the contributions of Charles Darwin on evolutionary theory, of Albert Einstein on the theory of physics, and of Karl Marx on social and political theory, shaped the intellectual world of the entire twentieth century in the natural sciences, the behavioral sciences and the humanities. I came to it at the beginning of the 1950s, a dozen years after the death of Freud, at a time of its seeming ever-increasing presence and influence, and have lived, with it and through it, somewhat more than half of its history to date.

Now, in celebration of the 100 years of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), the organization founded by Freud and his followers in 1910 to institutionalize the psychoanalytic idea and to preside over its growing future - an organization in which I have been devotedly involved for close to a half-century - I want to render a very personal account of how I have seen psychoanalysis from my very first contact with it, and how I have felt it evolve over the years since, to what I see as its present very problematic place in the scheme of things and its present very uncertain future.

At the time of my own change from a career in internal medicine to one in psychiatry and the lure of psychoanalysis in 1949, the ego psychology metapsychology paradigm, architected by Heinz Hartmann and his many collaborators and being systematized by David Rapaport, was the very dominant influence in (American) psychoanalysis. Many of Freud's active colleagues and students, having fled as Hitler refugees from the central European psychoanalytic strongholds, were then the central teachers in the spreading American psychoanalytic institutes. Psychoanalytic congresses - which, prior to World War II, had always been in Europe, with German as the dominant language - were now being reconfigured by a new trans- Atlantic agreement, with the presidency of the IPA to be rotated between Europe and North America. With the new American membership majority, English became both the administrative language and the majority language of the congress presentations. American psychoanalysts everywhere had full analytic practices - and often with substantial waiting lists.

Psychoanalysis had been popularized in America by Karl Menninger, the intellectual leader of The Menninger Foundation, which at the time was the foremost psychoanalytically based mental health treatment center in America. His 1930 book, The Human Mind, a psychoanalytic exposition of human mental functioning, was written in response to an earlier volume by a colleague at the Kansas University Medical School, Logan Clendening.

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