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Sherman, M.H. (1988). Theodor Reik and Lay Analysis. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(3):380-392.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(3):380-392

Theodor Reik and Lay Analysis

Murray H. Sherman

It is well known that The Question of Lay Analysis (1926) was written by Freud in order to defend Theodor Reik against charges of malpractice of medicine, but it is widely believed that this issue never came to trial. The Jones (1957) biography merely states that “Freud's personal intervention with a high official decided the case in Reik's favor.” Reik himself told me that there was no trial.

However, a dispatch by special cable in The New York Times of May 25, 1927 gives many fascinating details about the trial that had actually taken place the day before. The report states: “Sigmund Freud, who discovered and popularized psychoanalysis, has now convinced an Austrian court that this science has an individual dignity equal to that of medicine.”

The dispatch goes on to say that an American physician had brought suit against Reik after several weeks of treatment because he had become worse instead of better. The complainant was supported on this suit by Professor Wagner-Jauregg,

a longstanding opponent of Freud's science, [who] sought to prove to the court psychoanalysis was dangerous when practiced by a man not educated in medical science. He had supporting him thirty-one doctors and professors of medicine…. Freud said: “A medical man cannot practice psychoanalysis because he always has medicine on his mind….”

Incidentally, Wagner-Jauregg received the Nobel prize for the malaria-fever treatment of general paresis (syphilis of the brain) in the same year of 1927 (cf. Eissler, 1986).

It is amazing that this colorful account has remained generally unknown to this date. I can add some further details that Reik mentioned to me.

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