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Fromm-Reichmann, F. Silver, A.S. (1990). The Assets of the Mentally Handicapped: The Interplay of Mental Illness and Creativity. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 18(1):47-72.

(1990). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 18(1):47-72

The Assets of the Mentally Handicapped: The Interplay of Mental Illness and Creativity

Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, M.D. and Ann-Louise S. Silver, M.D.

Ed.: Fromm-Reichmann was an extremely popular lecturer at the Washington School of Psychiatry. Her lectures formed the foundation for her papers, which were more condensed and formalized than were her talks. In these lectures, she discusses the interplay of mental illness and creativity in those suffering from manic-depressive psychosis and schizophrenia. She uses as examples a patient of hers, an acquaintance, and the biographies of Schumann, Nijinsky, Boisen, and “a late inmate of the Glasgow Royal Asylum for Lunatics at Gartnavel.”

This contribution conveys the lively and highly informative and motivating style that made Fromm-Reichmann so sought out as a speaker and clinician. Additionally, it provides examples of the active teaching characteristic of those times. It serves as a model of excellence to us now, in an era of training that has been marked by more egalitarian and thus less didactic and perhaps less informative teaching styles.

The following is an edited transcript of some of the lectures Fromm-Reichmann delivered during the spring of 1950. It is best read along with the references cited, although the material presented here stands independently. Fromm-Reichmann begins by quoting from her 1949 paper, “Recent Advances in Psychoanalysis,” in which she summarized the Freudian and Sullivanian theoretical premises, outlining the developmental schemata of each perspective, and stressing the importance of early childhood interpersonal relationships (Fromm-Reichmann, 1959, pp.

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