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Gabbard, G.O. Gabbard, K. (1989). The Female Psychoanalyst in the Movies. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 37:1031-1049.

(1989). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37:1031-1049

The Female Psychoanalyst in the Movies

Glen O. Gabbard, M.D. and Krin Gabbard, Ph.D.


The last five decades of the American cinema have produced a remarkably consistent stereotype of the female analyst. In films such as Spellbound (1945), Knock on Wood (1954), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), They Might Be Giants (1971), and The Man Who Loved Women (1983), women analysts are swept away by countertransference love that leads them to become sexually or romantically involved with their male patients. In stark contrast to the data from studies of patient-therapist sexual involvement, there are more than twice as many films portraying unethical sexual behavior on the part of a female analyst as there are films depicting similar countertransference acting out by a male analyst. Moreover, a stable relationship with a man and a successful analytic practice never coexist for any woman analyst in the cinema. Neither does a female analyst ever successfully treat a male patient in the American cinema unless she falls in love with him. On the contrary, the male patient is more likely to cure his female analyst. Clinical reports from cross-gender analyses are useful in understanding these cinematic myths.

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