Education and Training: Myths and Facts About Psychoanalysis

This is a collection of myths and facts about psychoanalysis including the myth that psychoanalysis is largely the work of one man, contemporary psychoanalysis in both theory and clinical practice is virtually the same as it was in Freud’s day, psychoanalysis has gone out of fashion, psychoanalysis is an esoteric cult, requiring both conversion and years of study, psychoanalysis is not supported by research, and psychoanalysis is a clinical process that takes years and years and is never over.

Myth #1

Psychoanalysis is largely the work of one man.

Fact: Freud’s incredible genius and dominant leadership impeded divergent views in the field. Following his death in 1939, psychoanalytic thought has evolved and flowed naturally. A number of men and women have made highly creative theoretical and clinical contributions that constitute paradigm shifts. Contemporary psychoanalysis is not a footnote to Freud.

Myth #2

Contemporary psychoanalysis in both theory and clinical practice is virtually the same as it was in Freud’s day.

Fact: Very little of the way Freud understood and practiced psychoanalysis has remained intact. Freud’s oeuvre is an impressive personal achievement of Western intellectual history and culture like the work of Newton in physics and Darwin in biology, but understanding Freud is not equivalent to understanding contemporary psychoanalysis.

Myth #3

Psychoanalysis has gone out of fashion.

Fact: The dominant concerns within the contemporary psychoanalytic literature and current analytic practice –the problems of living, the nature of subjectivity, the generation of personal meaning and creativity, the embeddedness of the subject in cultural, linguistic, and historical contexts-are the major concerns of our time.

Myth #4

Psychoanalysis is an esoteric cult, requiring both conversion and years of study.

Fact: Psychoanalysis is no longer a highly technical medical specialty in the United States. This has eliminated previous attitudes of professional elitism and exclusivity. Universities and institutes now train psychologists and social workers and they in turn have proliferated and flourished in cities across the United States. Multiple theoretical orientations and practices are taught.

Myth #5

Psychoanalysis is not supported by research.

Fact: An enormous body of research in cognitive, social, developmental, and personality psychology now supports many propositions of contemporary psychodynamic theory. This includes unconscious cognitive, affective and motivational processes, the origins of many personality and social dispositions in childhood, and mental representations of self, others, and relationships. There is also considerable evidence for the clinical utility of psychoanalysis.

Myth #6

Psychoanalysis is a clinical process that takes years and years and is never over.

Fact: Despite popular belief, Woody Allen is not any psychoanalyst’s idea about how long an analysis should take. The length of an analysis depends on the goals of the patient and an understanding that there is no Holy Grail of mental health that makes it possible to live happily ever.