Elizabeth Ann Danto, Freud's Free Clinics; Psychoanalysis and Social Justice, 1918-1938.
This is an unusual book, in part a series of biographical sketches of Sigmund Freud and a host of other pioneers in the development of psychoanalysis in Europe, and in part the story of the invention of free mental health treatment centers by psychoanalysts in Berlin, Vienna, and other European capitals. The story is set in the tumultuous, and at the end, horrific times between the end of World I and the ascendancy of Hitler's Third Reich.
Elizabeth Danto bases her work on extensive examination of over twenty archival sources in the United States and Europe, ranging from the Archives of the New York Psychoanalytic Society to the Otto Rank papers at Columbia University to the Archives of the Sigmund Freud Foundation in Vienna. She also interviewed fifteen individuals who had some connection with the development of psychoanalysis and the free clinic movement, although she only identifies the background of three of these interviewees, making their information less useful.
This far-ranging history discusses the development and operation of free out-patient mental health clinics for working class people in European cities from 1920 until the rise of the Third Reich. In 1918, at an international conference of psycho-analysts, Sigmund Freud encouraged his peers to set up these free institutions because, he believed, "The poor man should have just as much right to assistance for his mind as he now has to the life-saving help offered by surgery (pp, 1-2)." Freud reached a receptive audience, and at least twelve of these clinics were established in European cities in the years between the two world wars. The first clinic, the Poliklinik, was established in Berlin, quickly followed by the Ambulatorium in Vienna. These pioneer clinics, and those that followed, were staffed by psychoanalysts and their students. They treated the troubles of young people, delinquents, and those suffering from psychosomatic illnesses through time-limited psychoanalysis.
The roster of those who devoted at least some of their time to clinic practice includes many familiar names: Sigmund and Anna Freud, Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, Bruno Bettelheim, Melanie Klein, Wilhelm Reich, Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, and Alfred Adler. Those donating time to the clinics were interested in social as well as psychological issues and believed that psychoanalysis could "share in the transformation of civil society." Many were Socialists and some were Communists. They hoped for the transformation of society after World War I and believed in Erikson's concept of the importance that the social environment plays in human development.
Danto traces the history of the free clinics through their heady early days up until their dissolution under the Nazi and Fascist regimes in Europe. She describes their leadership, the backgrounds of the psychoanalysts who joined the clinic movement, the psychoanalytic societies which helped support them, the professional groups that hindered the movement, the services and psychoanalytic training offered, and the types of clients seeking help. She details the socio-economic and educational backgrounds of the psychoanalysts who joined the clinic movement, their leftist political attachments, and their commitment to social change. She also attends to the larger context of "Red Vienna" and the other social democracies created in Europe between the wars. The book ends with the tragic details of the "Aryanization" of the clinics" staff, the flight from Germany and Austria to America and other safe havens by almost all of the psychoanalysts, and the transformation of the clinics into instruments of the Nazi regime.
This is an extremely important story, but unfortunately it is marred by extensive length, an overwhelming emphasis on detail, dense writing with page-length paragraphs, typographical errors, an inadequate index which also includes page number errors, and generally, poor proof reading. For example: "Deutsch was one of the few first women admitted to the University of Vienna" (p. 62); a reference to a woman who was "originally a Berlin relative of the Freuds" (one wonders if she divorced them), and the author's note to the editor on picture placement: "Figure 3 belongs somewhere within or after the next paragraph" (. 22), which remains in the book.
If the reader has the time to labor through the details, and can ignore the lack of proofreading, this is a worthwhile and gripping story. It may well change the image of the detached and apolitical psychoanalyst that many of us inherited.
Arizona State University
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|Publication:||Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2006|
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