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Richards, A.A. (1992). Introduction. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 1(4):515-516.

(1992). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 1(4):515-516


Arnold A. Richards, M.D.

The New York Psychoanalytic Society, the first psychoanalytic society in the western hemisphere, was founded on February 11, 1911, three months before the American Psychoanalytic Society. This was largely due to the efforts of Dr. Abraham A. Brill, who, since 1908, had already been meeting with a small group of psychiatrists to discuss the then revolutionary discoveries of Freud. Nathan Hale (1971) writes: “Largely because of the zeal of Brill, Frink, Oberndorf and a few others, the New York Society became the most cohesive, active, and orthodox center of psychoanalysis in the United States” (p. 323). Hale also notes that were it not for this activity, orthodox psychoanalysis would not likely have gained a strong foothold in the United States.

By “orthodox” in those days was meant adherence to the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud, an adherence not in the first instance limited to physicians. In fact, the New York Psychoanalytic Society could be deemed an “extension” service from the very beginning, in that Brill, Oberndorf, and the others lectured untiringly throughout the country to all who would listen. By the time the educational arm of the New York Society (i.e., the New York Psychoanalytic Institute) was founded in 1931, it had already been determined, largely at the urging of the founders, and due to complex social and professional factors unique to the United States, that, unlike in Europe, the training of analysts and the practice of psychoanalysis would be limited to physicians. However, the Extension Division was organized at the same time the Institute was founded. Since then it has offered, under various organizational titles and structures, a rich and varied curriculum of lectures and seminars not only for psychiatrists and physicians, but for psychologists, social workers, teachers, academics, lawyers, and business people—those from a wide variety of disciplines who share a common interest in psychoanalysis.

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