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Whitehead, C.C. (2002). On the Asclepian Spirit and the Future of Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 30(1):53-69.

(2002). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 30(1):53-69

On the Asclepian Spirit and the Future of Psychoanalysis

Clay C. Whitehead

The dynamics of the Asclepian myth are analyzed, and generic dynamics of the healing imperative are illustrated. The story teaches much about the early theories and practice of ancient medicine, and originated the healing symbol of the staff and serpent which appears on the emblem of the American Academy. The multi-modal therapeutic approach used at the Asclepia was often climaxed by dream incubation as a centerpiece of the treatment.

Dreams from modern physicians in analysis will be introduced to show that while our practice has changed in external trappings, the underlying dynamics of ancient and modern healers reflect a common humanity. Modern therapists have reacquired the use of dreams and invented a new set of explanatory myths.

Consideration of future developments leads to linking the “psychosomatic model” of antiquity with the psychopharmacological interventions which are now commonplace in psychodynamic psychotherapy. The Asclepian emphasis on spirituality is also finding increasing recognition among psychoanalysts and other scientists.

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