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Aiello, T. (2009). Psychoanalysts in Exile. Psychoanal. Perspect., 6(2):8-34.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 6(2):8-34


Psychoanalysts in Exile

Theresa Aiello, Ph.D.


These oral histories were conducted 15 years ago as part of my dissertation. Today, rereading them is like seeing history, our history of American psychoanalysis, through a sepia-colored lens. To me, they are now, as they were then, a kind of valentine to the teachers of my teachers in psychoanalysis, and I was honored and privileged to hear the stories of these most distinguished analysts. And, given the current difficulties in clinical social work licensure, these stories are strangely prescient.

These interviews describe a unique period in psychoanalytic history in America. They focus on the plight and influence of lay psychoanalysts who emigrated from Europe to America prior to 1950, with the exception of Esther Menaker (who was American but trained in Vienna). These analysts found themselves in conflict in America. Whereas nonmedical psychoanalysis had been widely accepted in Europe, lay practitioners were excluded from the established American psychoanalytical community, which was dominated by psychiatry. The practice of nonmedical or lay analysis in the late 1920s and '30s was illegal.

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