A Brief History of Psychoanalysis-Freud, Breuer, & Klein

The difference between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy can be said that psychoanalysis looks at the unconscious, while psychotherapy works with what we are conscious of. Now this isn’t 100% accurate, but from a layman’s perspective, this may be the easiest way to draw a distinction between the two techniques. Today, we tend to view psychotherapy as sort of an umbrella term in which psychoanalysis seems to fall, similar to Alzheimer being a type of memory disorder that falls under dementia. There was a time when psychoanalysis (in the early 1900’s) and its talking-therapy (free association), was the most popular form of working with emotional and mental disturbances. While many view Freud as the father of psychoanalysis, it was really a collaborative effort between Freud, his mentor and teacher Breuer, and the “success” of their publication entitled, Studien Uber Hysterie (Studies on Hysteria) and their patient, “Anne O.” History suggests Freud never met Anna O. but her real name was Bertha Papenheim, an Austrian-Jewish feminist and the founder of the Jüdischer Frauenbund (League of Jewish Women). More information on Anna O. and modern applications can be found in later blog posts.

Later, after Freud broke away from Breuer, and the subsequent publications of his The Ego and Id, and later Interpretation of Dreams, it was Melanie Klein’s contribution to child psychiatry, who helped to shape psychoanalysis as we know it to be today. Others contributed massively to the psychoanalytic movement, but Breuer, Freud and Klein were three of the early contributors, along with Alfred Adler and others whose independent theories were also as equally impactful– It should be said that Klein’s first patient was her child (parents make the best therapists….sometimes…).

Melanie Klein

For a time, psychoanalysts were strictly psychiatrists; later on in its matriculation into the world of mental health, non-medical analysts joined the ranks, dividing analysts into two categories: medical psychoanalysts and non-medical analysts. Furthermore it should be said that psychoanalysts of color, particularly African American psychoanalysts were not able to train as analysts until some 30 years after Freud’s inaugural address to the psychological community in America in the early 1900’s, the first African-American psychoanalytic child psychiatrist being Dr. Margaret Lawrence.

My Personal Experience

My personal experience and connection with psychoanalysis has more to do with its theories about the mind and approach to understanding trauma, addiction, the conscious/unconscious conversation, and various emotional states, rather than the discipline of psychoanalysis by itself. One of psychoanalysis’s trademark techniques in accessing the unconscious is through free association. Free association is the process of freely talking without regard to typical rules of conversation or subject matter, in order to reveal tells, motifs and patterns of the unconscious. The subject would talk about what is important to him/her/them without pushing, questioning, or too much intervention of the self of the therapist. Without the pushing, scolding, or blaming, how a someone really feels about a subject, habit, or another person is revealed. Later, child psychiatrist D.W. Winnicott referred to this experience as a holding environment, similar to what happens in childhood if a good enough parent can create a healthy space for a child to grow.

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