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Silver, A.S. (2002). Psychoanalysis and Psychosis: Players and History in the United States. Psychoanal. Hist., 4(1):45-66.

(2002). Psychoanalysis and History, 4(1):45-66

Psychoanalysis and Psychosis: Players and History in the United States

Ann-Louise S. Silver, M.D.


This paper challenges five assumptions: (1) that US interest in analysis began with Freud's Clark Lectures; (2) that Americans prior to the early 1930s had a practical, naively optimistic, non-theoretical interest in psychoanalysis; (3) that serious psychoanalytic work with severe mental illness began only after World War II; (4) that such work used classical analytic techniques; and, finally, (5) that psychoanalytically-oriented work with the severely ill has been deemed outmoded or even dangerous and has ceased in the United States.

Freud aptly called us the ‘practical Americans’. Home of William James's pragmatism and C.S. Peirce's pragmaticism, American psychiatry has long attempted a can-do attitude towards treating mental illness, as promulgated by James's and Peirce's contemporary, Swiss-born and -educated, Adolf Meyer. ‘Starting in 1906, Meyer urged members of his staff to acquire a knowledge of psychoanalytic theory and practice’ (Leys 1981).

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