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Burston, D. (2012). Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry in the Twenty-First Century: Historical Reflections. Psychoanal. Rev., 99(1):63-80.

(2012). Psychoanalytic Review, 99(1):63-80

Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry in the Twenty-First Century: Historical Reflections

Daniel Burston, Ph.D.

In March 1987, I was an Oscar Diethelm Fellow at the History of Psychiatry Section at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in New York City. My supervisor was Eric (“Ted”) Carlson, a delightful old psychiatrist and well-known specialist in the history of phrenology, hypnotism, American psychoanalysis, and multiple personality disorder. After one of our seminars, as we were exiting the library together, I asked Ted what he thought the twenty-first century held in store for psychoanalysis. To my astonishment, he said it would probably go the way of phrenology. In addition to being surprised, I was a little offended at this remark. After all, weren't phrenologists charlatans, by and large? Now it was Ted's turn to be offended. He shot back that many phrenologists—including Benjamin Rush, about whom he had written a great deal—were perfectly sincere and respectable doctors. No, he said, he was merely suggesting that with the passage of time, clinicians would differentiate what was valid in psychoanalysis and discard the remainder, and that these elements of enduring value would eventually be absorbed into a new and genuinely scientific discipline, much as phrenology gave way to neurology.

If memory serves, that was the only contentious exchange that took place between me and my late friend and benefactor.

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