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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Self-Destructiveness of Psychoanalysis: A Failed Profession

Psychoanalysis set itself the task of becoming a profession addressing a wide range of human behavior, not merely a form of psychotherapy. But this 'project' of professionalization has failed. This paper explores three reasons for this failure. (1) Fragmentation. There are a multiplicity of competing voices that attempt to speak for the field, largely because of how its organizations have dealt with theoretical differences in the past. Thus there is no unified group that can represent it to the public. (2) Compromised Authority. The professional authority of the field, the authority that makes it possible for the public to trust the competence of practitioners, is deeply flawed. For one thing, the organizations of psychoanalysis failed to develop evidence of the effectiveness of psychoanalytic practice. For another, they have failed to experiment with and to evaluate training methods, so that there is little evidence that current training methods lead to the development of competent analysts. (3) Ambiguity of Task. Psychoanalysis has not been able to state clearly what psychoanalysts do. The work of the field is shrouded with mystery and technical, self-referential jargon. Thus the field is unable to locate itself with respect to competitors or assess its own effectiveness.In conclusion, the paper raises the question of whether professionalization was the correct project for psychoanalysis to undertake. Perhaps, given the fact that psychoanalysis works on the edge of the psychologically knowable and socially acceptable, it could never hope to achieve the stability of a profession. But what place, then, could it hope to occupy in the world of work?