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The Plight of Psychoanalysis?

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticJanuary 11, 2012 6:58 AM


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A New York psychoanalyst reveals her concerns about the profession in A Letter to Freud: On the Plight of Psychoanalysis


Dinah M. Mendes's letter covers several topics, but I was struck by the sections that deal with the contemporary challenges facing American analysts. She paints a rather sad picture of analysts who spend years in training, only to find a shortage of people out there who want their treatment:

At psychoanalytic training institutes it is often difficult for candidates to secure control or training cases—prospective analysands who sign on with analysts-in-training, usually at a low rate (sometimes as low as $10 a session). Here the issue is not the cost of the analysis but the low valuation of the opportunity offered—what might be regarded as the gift of self-knowledge.

The gratifications of instantaneous communication—texting, Facebook, and blogging—are immediate and obvious and erode the value of the slow and arduous route to communication and understanding offered by psychoanalysis. We seem to be transfixed in our culture by the allure of performance and public presentation, and a climate in which the exterior signifies the interior, where what you see and hear is what is true and real (no matter how often this fantasy is belied) is not receptive to the ideals of psychoanalysis.

She goes on to examine the increasing popularity of psychodynamic psychotherapy, approaches which draws on Freud's ideas but is much shorter (and hence cheaper) than classical psychoanalysis which involves hourly sessions, three times per week, over a period of years -

To judge from the mushrooming of new institutes of psychotherapy and shorter training programs within established psychoanalytic institutes, many people are interested in becoming psychotherapists, while there are fewer candidates for traditional psychoanalytic training and for psychoanalysis as a treatment choice.

For those who elect full-scale psychoanalytic training, the supply of certified psychoanalysts exceeds the demand in the population, and as psychotherapists they compete with psychotherapists of all stripes and denominations. The analytic institute can feel like a sequestered haven in which psychoanalysis is an “in house” specialty, tendered by training analysts (who have to earn their institutional stripes) to analytic candidates...

In my years of training, the contemporary challenges facing the would-be practitioner of psychoanalysis were rarely if ever openly addressed, although many recent graduates find themselves with few and sometimes no analytic cases...

All this, she says, can be seen in the context of

A zeitgeist in which the intrinsic and often intangible value of knowledge and education, and of self-knowledge and self-examination, has been supplanted by the appeal of material and pragmatic goals.

Of course this is all anecdotal. I wonder if any analysts amongst my readers have thoughts on this?


Mendes, D. (2011). Letter to Freud: On the Plight of Psychoanalysis The Psychoanalytic Review, 98 (6), 755-774 DOI: 10.1521/prev.2011.98.6.755

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