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Blum, L. (2018). Teaching Freud, Teaching Psychoanalysis: From College Students to Professionals. Am. Imago, 75(2):307-317.

(2018). American Imago, 75(2):307-317

Teaching Freud, Teaching Psychoanalysis: From College Students to Professionals

Lawrence Blum, M.D.

Teaching Freud, for me, is always part of a larger project of teaching psychoanalysis. My inclination, perhaps informed by students’ expectations of Freud as a historical footnote, and psychoanalysis as a famous cadaver, has been to emphasize how Freud's ideas are alive in the present, in contemporary psychoanalysis. My colleagues writing in this issue provide wonderful illustrations of the use of Freud's work to show the discovery and development of psychoanalytic ideas in Freud's own thinking, as he wrestles them. Their students have the opportunity to observe the process of discovery, see Freud's bravery and defenses in action, and meet him as a person. In contrast, I will present an approach that honors Freud's ideas by showing students not only how those ideas continue to exert influence but also how later and current thinkers extend them into the present. To do this, I will first discuss some broader issues in teaching Freud and psychoanalysis to different groups of students. I will then discuss Freud's “Irma” dream, the “specimen dream” of psychoanalysis, and a variety of educational uses it can afford to teachers and students. Finally, I will present a couple of classroom exercises not directly related to teaching Freud per se, but which can be useful in engaging students in a participatory psychoanalytic thought process.

College Students in Contrast to Mental Health Professionals. After many years of teaching psychoanalytic candidates, psychotherapy students, and trainees in the mental health disciplines, I have in recent years also had the opportunity to teach undergraduates. I was curious to learn what the experience would be like and what adjustments would be necessary. Overall, I have found the experience of teaching this younger age group surprisingly similar to teaching their elders. With either mental health professionals or undergraduates, one is likely to have a class that is heterogeneous with regard to personal background, psychoanalytic knowledge, and especially aptitude for psychoanalytic learning.

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