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Cooper, A. (2003). Discussion of Eisold's “Profession of Psychoanalysis”. Contemp. Psychoanal., 39(4):593-602.

(2003). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 39(4):593-602

Discussion of Eisold's “Profession of Psychoanalysis” Related Papers

Arnold Cooper, M.D.

KENNETH EISOLD has presented a brilliant description of the rise and decline of the profession of psychoanalysis, a topic of enormous interest now. He offers a sophisticated sociological study of what it is that constitutes a profession, and discusses Freud's tripartite definition of psychoanalysis as an academic discipline, a therapy, and a research method. His aim is (p. 558) “to see more clearly how psychoanalysis has failed—and continues to fail—at establishing itself in the eyes of the public as the profession Freud hoped and believed it had become” He cites a major cause of this failure (p. 560) as psychoanalysts having “borrowed the professional identity of medicine to cover their analytic identities and, in so doing, inadvertently undermined the efforts of psychoanalysis to establish a professional identity in its own right.” Dr. Ei-sold's review of the state of psychoanalysis and his suggested remedies are deeply thoughtful and important. Because I am in agreement with a great deal of what Eisold tells us, I focus on areas that merit further discussion. Following his themes, I focus on the characteristics of a profession, the difficulties confronting us, and possible directions for future solutions.

The term “professional” can be misleading. Part of our confusion may relate to Freud's (1937) famous description of psychoanalysis as one of the “impossible professions.” It is worth examining that quote in detail.

Here let us pause for a moment to assure the analyst that he has our sincere sympathy in the very exacting requirements of his practice. It almost looks as if analysis were the third of those “impossible” professions in which one can be sure only of unsatisfying results. The other two, as has long been agreed, are the bringing-up of children and the government of nations. Obviously we cannot demand that the prospective analyst should be a perfect human being before he takes up analysis, so that only persons of this rare and exalted perfection should enter the profession.

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