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Diercks, C. (2002). The Vienna Psychoanalytic Polyclinic (‘Ambulatorium’): Wilhelm Reich and the Technical Seminar. Psychoanal. Hist., 4(1):67-84.

(2002). Psychoanalysis and History, 4(1):67-84

The Vienna Psychoanalytic Polyclinic (‘Ambulatorium’): Wilhelm Reich and the Technical Seminar

Christine Diercks

I From the Beginnings of the Polyclinic and of the Technical Seminar

It looked very much as if the aim had been reached: Freud's doctrine was increasingly being accepted and students from all over the world came flocking to Vienna. Psychoanalysis had gained an international foothold. The outbreak of World War I brought this development to a sudden halt. Psychoanalysts were divorced from one another, many of them serving in military units on either side of the front, and Freud was cut off from his movement. The war was still raging in September 1918, when the Fifth International Psychoanalytic Congress met in Budapest. Here a most lively discussion led to the foundation of the first psychoanalytic polyclinics in Berlin and Vienna.

Freud gave this development a considerable boost with his address to the Congress on the ‘Lines of advance in psycho-analytic therapy(Freud 1919a):

… at some time or other the conscience of society will awake and remind it that the poor man should have just as much right to assistance for his mind as he now has to the life-saving help offered by surgery. […] It may be a long time before the State comes to see these duties as urgent. […] Probably these institutions will first be started by private charity. Some time or other, however, it must come to this.

Freud's impassioned appeal, social commitment, pioneering spirit and ambition to see psychoanalysis established as a recognized form of treatment were not the only impulses leading to the establishment of clinical institutes; two other factors also proved to be of prime importance.

The first was the experiences psychoanalysts had with the treatment of war neuroses.

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