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Levy, S.T. (2009). Psychoanalytic Education Then and Now. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(6):1295-1309.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(6):1295-1309

Plenary Address

Psychoanalytic Education Then and Now

Steven T. Levy

Psychoanalytic education never really begins at a finite time. It is more accurate to say that it is gathered up retrospectively and, if things have gone well, appreciated as self-defining and life-altering. For most of us, becoming a psychoanalyst is more than the mere adoption of a professional affiliation. It means a way of life with intellectual and behavioral commitments and ideals that become our second nature and sometimes our second skin, which may explain our organizational conservatism and difficulty in changing. Changes we desperately need to make are my subject this morning.

I date my formal psychoanalytic beginnings to my junior year in college. My older, now younger, sister had taken certain psychology courses at college, and I vividly remember dinner-table conversations during which she regaled us with her newfound knowledge, insights she had honed into laser-sharp critiques of our family's failings and foibles. I determined, then and there, that I could not allow this unfair advantage to persist, and so when my time came, I found myself (notice the abrogation of responsibility) in a classroom to be devoted to a semester on Freudian psychology taught by a most formal and erudite psychoanalyst, one Edward Burchard, associated with the William Alanson White Institute in New York City. The text was to be Charles Brenner's Elementary Textbook of Psychoanalysis, that familiar little gray pamphlet, full of ridiculous and improbable speculations, absurd sexual overextensions, generalizations, and mythologies. I dismissed it all as nonsense, as did, it seemed to me, most of my classmates. I wonder how many of them came crawling back years later, in different venues, secretly but permanently unnerved, a literal return of the repressed. I have in recent years taught such a course to undergraduates at my university, no doubt a combination of repentance, undoing, and revenge.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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