Freudian Psychoanalysis is a Dangerous Fraud

It sure was for me. After finally quitting, I read quite a bit about it, and discovered: [ul][li]There’s no scientific basis. Others have also been harmed by psychoanalysis.[/ul] OTOH a psychiatrist for whom I have great respect says that he was immensely helped by being psychoanalyzed.[/li]
Over to you, dopers…


Perhaps a clarification of what you mean, specifically, by psychoanalyzation would be helpful.

I was under the impression that no one does a truly Freudian psychoanalysis anymore - that most of Freud’s ideas have been supplanted by those who continued along his line of research (Jung comes to mind, but I know there were others).

I can’t say anything about psychoanalysis that Jeffrey Moussaief Masson hasn’t already said better.

Against Therapy

Assault on Truth: Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory

The Final Analysis: The making and unmaking of a Psychoanalysis

Your links didn’t work, Ahunter.

For the uninitiated (such as myself), what distinguishes psychoanalysis from other forms of psychotherapy?

Or are you two simply firm believers in the cures of creative chemistry? :slight_smile:


Without going into too much detail, would you be willing to explain in what way you felt that psychoanalysis was bad for you?

Masson is a well-known Freud-basher. I have to admit that I’m not too familiar with his work, but that is at least in part because it is not taken too seriously in professional circles (at least up in my neck o’ the woods).

Masson is correct in pointing out the dangers inherent in the power balance of the analyst-patient relationship, but that critique can also be applied to any other form of therapeutic treatment, even chemical. His reconstruction of the history of the seduction theory, and Freud’s abandonment of it, on the other hand, is IMHO balderdash – even if Freud’s own stated rationale for replacing seduction with the Oedipus complex doesn’t quite jive.

Well, technically, psychoanalysis consists of 4 to 5 analytic session a week, with an analyst schooled in the “tradition” of Freud, and who is an approved member of the IPA (International Psychoanalytic Association). But it’s a bit more complicated than that, really.

To begin with, the “tradition” of Freudian analysis (as Sister Coyote rightly observed above) has developed significantly over the last century. There are those who still practice classical analysis, or something very close to it, at least in the British Psychoanalytic Society – but I am of the impression that they are a dying breed. Instead, most modern analysts are schooled in something known as object relations theory, which is a developmental offshoot of traditional analysis. There are a few different shades of object relations theory as well – ranging from a strict “Kleinian” object relations theory to the so-called Independent school. In America you have some variation as well, including the neo-Freudians, the ego psychologists, the self-psychologists (ala Kohut), and these days a relatively new form, known as “relational” psychology. Object relations theory never really took off in America, although it has been recently gaining in popularity. Finally, you also have all that post-modern French stuff, based on Lacan’s “textual” reconstruction of Freud as a linguist. Popular in France, and to judge from the latest publications, going through something of a renaissance in the States as well.

But as if the above wasn’t complicated enough, you also have something known as “psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapy,” which relies on the theory and techniques of psychoanalysis but generally entail one to two sessions a week. As for the specific details that differentiate this form of therapy from others, I would say at least the following (not an exhaustive list):[ul][li]primary theoretical focus on the functioning of the unconscious mind, as it is experienced in a clinical setting;[/li]
[li]interpretation of the transference relationship as a primary tool of analysis;[/li]
[li]theory built exclusively in reference to an in-depth analysis of the interpersonal relationship between analyst and patient;[/li]
[li]free association;[/li]
[li]focus on the technique of creating a “holding environment” for the patient.[/ul][/li]
Does that help any?

I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing wholeheartedly with december.

I recall an Onion headline: “Psychiatrist cures patient”.

It’s perhaps unfair, but illustrates a frustration with the science, or certainly with psychoanalysis. Like many 19th century ‘sciences’ (Theosophy or Marxism anyone?) it originates in pure theory and speculation, and little or no empirical research. Certainly the concept of attempting to heal the mind was a useful invention, but the fact that psychoanalysis today is built on unsound foundations makes me wary.

The same complaints can, IMO, be applied to Jung, Gurdjeff and Laing.

Hannibal Lecter called psychoanalysis a “dead religion.”


I disagree. Psychoanalysis, even classical psychoanalysis, is a highly empirical discipline. On the other hand, it lacks a lot of the “controls” for what might be called “experimental” variables, such as one is generally accustomed to find in other fields of scientific research.

Psychoanalysis is not “scientific” in the usual, positivistic sense of the term; it’s more of a craft, like, say, engineering. I think as well that the reputation of psychoanalysis has been damaged by its attempts to construct itself along the lines of a scientific discipline, and by its claims to scientific validity.

But even though it probably cannot, on its own, produce anything approaching the objective knowledge produced by a natural science, there is nevertheless a very great deal that is valid in it.

Atout 17 years ago I began psychoanalysis with Dr. Martin Silverman, at the recommendation of a good friend, who was also a psychoanalyst. I was suffering from moderate depression.

The treatment was to lie on the couch and talk aimlessly four times a week. After four years, my depression was no better, perhaps it was worse. I had become obsessive about the psychoanalysis. Quitting was extremely difficult and painful. I continued to obsess about the therapy for years afterwards. Time gradually reduced the obsession.

Incidentally, I found Jeffrey Masson’s books terrifically helpful in recovering. The things he described I had experienced, which was a huge relief.

Most of the empirical studies I read when I was studying psychology seemed to indicate that the effectiveness of various therapies varied by therapist. In other words that the skill of the therapist was more important than the theoretical framework that was in operation. The ability of the therapist to enter into a therapeutic relationship with the client was the most important variable. So there maybe some psychananlysts out there who are ok. However psychodynamism as a theory fell out of favor with mainstream psychology about 90 years ago. Freud developed his theories in a specific enviroment and out of that environment they don’t seem to have much validity. IMHO psychoanalysis should be thought of as an expensive hobby unless you are suffering from hysteria.

Freudian Psychoanalyism should be considered in the same realm as astrology, alchemy, Ms. Cleo, and phrenology. He did his “research” on a few case studies. His hypothesises are usually: unprovable (His dream analysis is totally speculative), illogical, or just plain wrong. For example: repression of trauma is the foundation of his ideas. However, when actual scientists did research, they discovered that in most cases just the opposite happens. It is usually hard to forget trauma.

Freud was also sexist (penis envy, denied existance of the “electra complex”.) He was also a cocaine addict.

Having taken the radical progressive position of decrying Freudian Psychoanalysis, I fully expect that our friend December will take on Magnetic Healing, bleeding and Chiropractic. All hail the advance of medical and scientific knowledge. Maybe he will find a target that was in the mainstream of medical practice after 1940.

Despite your sarcasm, Spavined Gelding, Freudian psychoanalysis is still given great respect in some quarters. E.g., it’s a big deal to the New York Times.

I was introduced to it by my late friend Dr. Roy Ginsberg, a psychoanalyst in Palo Alto, CA. When Roy died, his obituary was given a big writeup in the Times, even though he lived 3000 miles away. Roy’s main claim to fame was having been Presdent of the San Francisco Psychoanalysis association. Frankly that didn’t strike me as that big an achievement.

Based on what I’ve read and seen, there are still lots of Freudians putting their patients through this nonsense. Of course, they don’t need too many patients, since they keep the ones they have for years at several visits per week.

puddleglum wrote:

One quantity that ought to be established before an empirical study of Psychoanalysis can be undertaken is the rate at which neuroses are cures with NO therapy of any kind.

There are conflicting articles on the subject:

R. Denker, New York State Journal of Medicine, 1946. Denker followed 500 cases whose neuroses were severe enough that they were receiving disability payments from their life insurance companies. He found that after one year of receiving no treatment at all, 45% of the cases recovered from their neuroses. After two treatment-free years, a total of 72% had recovered; after three years, 82%; after four years, 87%; and finally, after the full five year run of the study was completed, a grand total of 90% of the formerly-severe-neurotics had recovered.

Hans Eysenck, 1952. Claimed that the spontaneous remission rate for neuroses was 72% (citing Denker [above] and a 1937 study by Landis showing that the discharged rate of NY state hospitalized neurotics was 72%), but that the psychotherapy success rate was only 67%. Therefore, psychotherapy was deemed to be no more effective than no therapy at all.

Bergin, 1976 (cited in a pro-Psychoanalysis article at Bergin reported reports only a 0% to 46% overall rate of recovery from neuroses among the members of the various no-treatment control groups he cited.

Re: tracer’s post above:

Cases receiving “no treatment” may not have been receiving formal treatment, but they were probably talking to a bartender, clergyman or friend(s).

My $0.02 worth:
I think therapy is most effective when the therapist as well as the mode of therapy are compatible with the client. If you need therapy, do some research and decide on a mode of therapy which makes sense to you. Then find a therapist with whom you are compatible who practices the mode of therapy you have selected.

May I ask why you continued with this person for 4 years if he was not helping you? I went through 4 or 5 counselors who sucked before I found one I liked. It’s like anything else, some people are good at it, and some people aren’t. If I take my car to a mechanic and he doesn’t fix the problem, I’m not gonna keep going back to him.

And I think I agree with those who say that Freudian analysis is on it’s way out. There might be some holdouts, but I was under the impression that it’s not mainstream anymore. The method I hear about the most is Cognative Behavioral Therapy. I don’t know how well-respected it is among those in the field - it just happens to be the one I’ve been exposed to.

I, too, have heard good things about cognitive therapy, although I haven’t tried it.

I fully agree, blowero. I don’t mind explaining why I continued. I recommend my thought process as what NOT to do.

The reasons I continued were[ul]
[li]Dr. Silverman told to continue. In fact, when I finally quit after 4 counter-productive years, he still advised that I continue.[/li][li]Dr. Silverman was a big cheese in the psychoanalytic world.[/li][li]Silverman had been highly recommend by a close friend, also a psychoanalyst. [/li][li]I distrusted my own judgment because I knew I wasn’t thinking straight. After all, that’s why I was seeing a shrink![/li][li]I believe the process of psychoanalysis tends to make the patient doubt himself. (It certainly had that effect on me.)[/li][li]People close to me urged me to continue the therapy, because they could see that I needed some help.[/li][li]The longer I went, the more emtionally invested I became. It was excruciating to face the fact that what appeared to be useless and stupid WAS useless and stupid.[/li][/ul]

I’m sorry you had such a bad experience - sounds like a nightmare. I agree that there’s a definite danger in this kind of doctor-patient relationship. Unfortunately, when someone is seeking therapy, they are usually in a very vulnerable state. I have heard one explanation of why patients are discouraged from switching therapists - there is a tendency for people to want to avoid dealing with painful issues, so they might want to leave a therapist right at the point of a breakthrough. This explanation makes sense, but I wonder if there might be too much emphasis on “staying the course” when it does not benefit the patient.

blowero wrote:

No, a nightmare is when you’re forced to go through therapy as a kid, when you don’t want therapy, and you don’t like the therapist, and the therapy itself borders on abuse:

Wow. Let me know when you finish the article, Tracer. Fascinating stuff. Thanks. One question, though. I think I might have tripped up on your timeline. Were you still seeing Dr. Stoll when you were at UCLA?