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Scheidlinger, S. (1992). Why Did Freud Drop the Theme of Group Psychology. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 40:1230-1232.

(1992). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40:1230-1232

Why Did Freud Drop the Theme of Group Psychology

Saul Scheidlinger, Ph.D.


In his history of group psychotherapy, Anthony (1971) puzzled about why Sigmund Freud failed to pursue his interest in group psychology after his single, uniquely important contribution on the subject (Freud, 1921). To quote Anthony: "Why did he [Freud] stop at these critical points? Who can tell? It is possible that his intense interest in individual intrapsychic conflicts—his own—superseded everything else" (p. 9).

I suggest that another, very specific reason accounts for Freud's (and for Anna Freud's) abrupt abandonment of the theme of group psychology. It centers on Trigant Burrow, an erstwhile president of the American Psychoanalytic Association who had arranged to come to Vienna for a psychoanalysis with Freud in 1914, a plan thwarted by the outbreak of World War I.

A few years after the war's end, at a time when Freud, following the rifts with Adler and with Rank, was bent on preserving the "purity" of his new movement, Burrow came up with a new approach.

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