Lay Analysis: Life Inside the Controversy

By Chessick, Richard D. | American Journal of Psychotherapy, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Lay Analysis: Life Inside the Controversy


Chessick, Richard D., American Journal of Psychotherapy


ROBERT S. WALLERSTEIN: Lay Analysis: Life Inside the Controversy. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1998, xv+511 pp., $40.00, ISBN 1-56821-363-8.

This is a very interesting and unusual book. It contains 455 pages of a chronicle in detail of the evolution of lay analysis in the United States. Wallerstein was at the center of the tremendous controversy and acquaints us with every nuance of the legal and political battles that were involved in finally forcing the American Psychoanalytic Association to accept nonphysicians as complete equals in training and membership. He infuses into the book a good deal of his own personal history, which is not objectionable, because clearly his identity is involved with this controversy, as it should be. There is a special emphasis on his autobiographical material in chapters 4 and 7; it is rather abruptly introduced in chapter 4 without much of an explanation, and this may confuse the reader.

The centerpiece of the book revolves around the question of whether the exclusion of psychologists from psychoanalytic training by institutes affiliated with the American Psychoanalytic Association represented an attempt on the part of the medical psychoanalysts to maintain a monopoly over what at that time was a very lucrative profession, or whether it had to do with the whole issue of the identity of the psychoanalyst. Of course the legal case centered around the psychologists' claim that it was indeed a "pocketbook issue," but Wallerstein does not think so. From his point of view the problem arose from a collision between "two counterposed visions of what psychoanalysis is all about" (p. 454), with the balance at this time tipping in the direction recommended by Freud: "Psychoanalysis as a distinct discipline, a psychology with all the interfaces I have stated, rather than in the opposed direction of a therapeutic arm of medicine in a particular area of its domain" (P. 454). This results in a change of identity for psychoanalysts over the course of these events, writes Wallerstein: "It is no longer 'I am a physician who has specialized in psychiatry and, within that, psychoanalysis, as a way of understanding and trying to ameliorate human mental and emotional distress', or that I am in the first instance a physician and secondarily a psychoanalyst. The fundamental shift has been to: 'I am a psychoanalyst, devoted to understanding the human mind psychoanalytically, in all its dimensions and activities, who has come to this endeavor by way of prior training and study in medicine, or in psychology, or in whatever' " (p. 455). Wallerstein implies in his book that this transition is essentially complete, although a substantial proportion of the members of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, who recently voted against the admission of psychologist -psychoanalysts to that organization, would disagree.

What is stunning, as one goes over the intricate details of this controversy documented rather objectively and meticulously, almost obsessively, by Wallerstein, is the astonishing amount of politics and bureaucratic maneuvering that characterizes these psychoanalytic organizations, both medical and psychological. …

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