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The possibilities of psychoanalysis in psychiatry

The Letter, Issue 38, Autumn 2006, Pages 45 - 48


THE POSSIBILITIES OF PSYCHOANALYSIS IN PSYCHIATRY

Emer Rutledge

In the year 1917 Freud gave a lecture on the topic of psycho­ analysis and psychiatry. On that occasion he asked his listeners to ‘endeavour to allow the psycho-analytic view to grow up quietly in you alongside of the popular or psychiatric one, till opportunities arise for the two to influence each other, to compete with each other and to unite in leading to a conclusion.'[1]

During the first half of the twentieth century, psychoanalysis revolutionized our understanding of mental life. It provided a remarkable set of new insights about unconscious mental processes. However at the beginning of the twenty-first century the influence of psychoanalysis is somewhat in decline. In the same paper in 1917 Freud anticipated that 'in the not too distant future it will be realized that a scientifically based psychiatry is not possible without a sound knowledge of the deeper-lying unconscious processes in mental life.'[2] Yet there is a difficulty in accommodating the evidence- based, scientific, biological discipline of psychiatry with the insights of psychoanalysis.

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