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Psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, and hysteria.

The Letter, Issue 2, Autumn 1994, Pages 47 - 68


Paul Verhaeghe

It is common knowledge that Freud started as the pupil of his hysterical patients. He wanted to know and that's why he kept on listening to them. During that time, he coined the idea of psychotherapy, which was rather new at the end of the nineteenth century. Today, psychotherapy has become a very common practice; it is even so common, that no-one knows any longer what exactly it means. On the other hand, hysteria as such has almost disappeared, so much so that in the latest version of the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical manual, there is no longer any mention of it.

This means that my paper is on the one hand about something that does not exist any more, and on the other hand about something that exists far too much... So, it will be necessary to define what we, from the psychoanalytic point of view, understand by the word "psychotherapy" and what we consider hysteria to be.

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