A few words about psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is an invention of the Viennese neurologist Sigmund Freud, which was renovated in a radical way by the French psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

It started in the form of the 'cathartic method' or 'chimney-sweeping', a technique aiming at the treatment of neurosis based on the recognition of the link between the traumatic experiences of the past and present symptoms.

It gradually evolved in a comprehensive theory that can be applied to the field of the clinic and the interpretation of phenomena in society, culture and politics with the use of concepts like the unconscious, transference, the drive and others.


It is not an infrequent misunderstanding that Freud was a psychologist; this is not accurate since he was a medical doctor, a neurologist with a special interest in the treatment of the neuroses, that is, the disorders that were then considered related to the nervous system.

Yet Freud's invention developed into a psychological theory too, attempting an interpretation of phenomena beyond the clinic, which are discussed in the sections below 'Treatment' and 'Experience'.

A first example is Freud's famous theory about the stages of psychosexual development (oral, anal, phallic, genital), which is used not only in the framework of the study of human development, but also in everyday speech, when personalities or behaviours are described as 'oral', 'anal', etc.

Another example is Freud's studies about society and civilization, like 'Totem and Taboo', 'Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego', 'Civilization and its Discontents', etc., which aim at answering questions about the constitution of society and its effects upon mental life. Although like the theory of psychosexual development, these theories are also used for a 'psychological' interpretation of human behaviour, it must not go by unnoticed that Freud's main concern was not the interpretation of human behaviour in a deterministic way, neither at an individual nor at a group level; he was always interested in the study of the structure and function of mental life, which would contribute to clinical practice.


Without question, psychoanalysis made its first steps as a therapeutic approach to the neuroses and, more specifically, hysteria, which was a frequent 'nervous disorder' in the late 19th century. Eventually, Freud and other psychoanalysts after him developed both its theory and techniques, applying various versions to the clinic. As an effect, it is still used today for the treatment of a wide number of symptoms.

Despite the fierce and multi-dimensional criticism it faced throughout the 20th century, psychoanalysis is still being practised today by about 20,000 people around the world.

What makes it stand out from other therapeutic approaches is that psychoanalysis does not own ready-made solutions for the people addressing it, regardless of whether they ask for the alleviation of the suffering linked to a specific symptom or unique experience in the light of the discoveries of Freud, Lacan, and other analysts.

The patient is encouraged to speak to the analyst about what troubles them in the first sessions, the so-called preliminary ones; the analyst must hear those symptoms in their uniqueness and guide the orientation of the treatment that is appropriate to the way that makes the patient suffer for their own, singular ways.

In contrast to other therapeutic approaches, the duration, frequency and cost of the sessions is not predetermined or decided, but they are agreed in relation to the singularity of the patient's symptom.


The presence of symptoms is not infrequent, nevertheless, it is not a prerequisite for one to begin a psychoanalytic experience, which is an indication that is needed in the field of psychotherapies. One might want to begin such a process to find out what constitutes them and leads their everyday life, and even bring a change with regards to it.

Like psychotherapy inspired by psychoanalysis, the process takes place in the light of concepts stemming from the psychoanalytic clinic, like transference, the subject, the drive, the object etc. Therapeutic effects are not excluded from this case, but they are not the primary aim of a psychoanalytic experience.

In fact, an innovation in the School founded by Jacques Lacan, who radicalised the theory and clinic of psychoanalysis like no other, is the institution of the pass (passe). During this process, the people who have completed their psychoanalyses, nominated psychoanalysts-of-the-school, testify about their experience to a committee of people who are in the same face in their analyses, and at a second stage, to the public. These testimonies are very enlightening about what has marked every subject in a unique way and how psychoanalytic experience can bring about changes with regards to them. Those fascinating testimonies can be found at the publications of the Ecole de la Cause Freudienne, the New Lacanian School, as well as the Hellenic Society of the NLS, the journal Psychoanalysis.

Sigmund Freud

Born in the middle of the 19th century, the Jewish Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud marked the 20th and so far 21st century's understanding of mental life like no other, in terms of mental illness and its treatment, human development, the constitution of society and demands of civilization, at an individual and a group level.

Having started his clinical practice with the treatment of hysteria, the concepts and praxis he invented, like the unconscious, the drive, transference, dream interpretation and others, are used until today by clinicians throughout the world for the treatment of mental symptoms.

Indeed, the Freudian invention is still used today in various forms, despite the fierce criticism Freud and his work faced for his innovative and radical ideas and the massive changes in western society in the last decades.

In fact, his only recorded vocal statement at BBC in 1938 London, a few months before his death, might be more contemporary today than ever: "The struggle is not yet over!"

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Jacques Lacan 

If Freud invented one of the most innovative theories about the human mind and society of the 20th century, the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan re-read his work, suggesting a reading of Freud 'to the letter', radicalizing psychoanalytic theory and praxis itself.

Lacan's reading of Freud lasted almost five decades and was constantly renewed. Some of Lacan's theories that were definitive for his teaching and are still used today in the clinical and theoretical approach to mental life from a Lacanian perspective, are his division of mental life in imaginary, symbolic and real, the paternal metaphor, the object a and the 'sinthome', which Lacan constructed upon studying the writing of James Joyce.

Under the guidance of Jacques-Alain Miller, the School founded by Lacan is still working as a framework for the study of Lacan's teaching and its use in the clinic. Half of today's psychoanalysts worldwide are Lacanians, and they are mainly found in Europe and South America, practising Lacanian psychoanalysis and working on clinical praxis and its theoretical configuration.

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