Freud’s Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis & Social Justice, 1918-1938

Freud’s Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis & Social Justice, 1918-1938

Freud's Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis & Social Justice, 1918-1938

Today many view Sigmund Freud as an elitist whose psychoanalytic treatment was reserved for the intellectually and financially advantaged. However, in this new work Elizabeth Ann Danto presents a strikingly different picture of Freud and the early psychoanalytic movement. Danto recovers the neglected history of Freud and other analysts’ intense social activism and their commitment to treating the poor and working classes.

Danto’s narrative begins in the years following the end of World War I and the fall of the Habsburg Empire. Joining with the social democratic and artistic movements that were sweeping across Central and Western Europe, analysts such as Freud, Wilhelm Reich, Erik Erikson, Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, and Helene Deutsch envisioned a new role for psychoanalysis. These psychoanalysts saw themselves as brokers of social change and viewed psychoanalysis as a challenge to conventional political and social traditions. Between 1920 and 1938 and in ten different cities, they created outpatient centers that provided free mental health care. They believed that psychoanalysis would share in the transformation of civil society and that these new outpatient centers would help restore people to their inherently good and productive selves.

Drawing on oral histories and new archival material, Danto offers vivid portraits of the movement’s central figures and their beliefs. She explores the successes, failures, and challenges faced by free institutes such as the Berlin Poliklinik, the Vienna Ambulatorium, and Alfred Adler’s child-guidance clinics. She also describes the efforts of Wilhelm Reich’s Sex-Pol, a fusion of psychoanalysis and left-wing politics, which provided free counseling and sex education and aimed to end public repression of private sexuality.

In addition to situating the efforts of psychoanalysts in the political and cultural contexts of Weimar Germany and Red Vienna, Danto also discusses the important treatments and methods developed during this period, including child analysis, short-term therapy, crisis intervention, task-centered treatment, active therapy, and clinical case presentations. Her work illuminates the importance of the social environment and the idea of community to the theory and practice of psychoanalysis.


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2 Comments so far »

  1. Thomas Szasz, MD said,

    Wrote on February 4, 2012 @ 1:02 am

    16 of 19 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    An important contribution to the history of psychoanalysi, August 14, 2005
    Thomas Szasz, MD (Manlius, NY 13104) –

    In Freud’s Free Clinics: Psychoanalysis and Social Justice, 1918-1938, Professor Elizabeth Danto looks at a familiar subject and, by dint of serious scholarship and critical intelligence, manages to tell us fresh and important things about it. Much of the cultural and social impact of psychoanalysis developed in the political-economic climate of Austria and Germany during the two tormented decades between the world wars. Danto demonstrates a sensitive understanding of that scene and its powerful influence on what became the ideology and practice of psychoanalysis. This well-written book is essential reading for
    students of the history of psychoanalysis and psychiatry — indeed for anyone interested in twentienth-century cultural history. I recommend it highly.

    Thomas Szasz
    Manlius, NY 13104

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  2. J. DeMeo "naturalenergyworks" said,

    Wrote on February 4, 2012 @ 1:41 am

    2 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
    1.0 out of 5 stars
    Critical Errors, I cannot trust this work., November 26, 2008
    J. DeMeo “naturalenergyworks” (Oregon, USA) –

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

    While this book was characterized as “a carefully researched and highly readable book on the free psychoanalytic clinics in Vienna, Berlin and elsewhere” in which Wilhelm Reich played a central role, upon reading it I found many omissions, and other blatantly false and misleading statements regarding Reich. On page 223-224, for example, after mentioning without clarification how Reich made (unidentified) “people feel somewhat uncomfortable, for his orgone accumulators and rain-making machines…” it states Reich “lost his mind to politics and incipient schizophrenia sometime around 1930.” While author Danto inserts a dampening statement on that same page, that Reich “did not lose his mind” when speaking of his marriage with Annie Pink, who remained a leading figure in mainstream psychoanalysis, this correction is too ambiguous to constitute a “rescue” of Reich’s reputation from the incautiously repeated malicious rumor. By comparison, discussions in the book about Carl Jung, who factually became a Nazi sympathizer heading a special “analysis” branch of National Socialism, headed by the cousin of Goering (and of the same last name), never say Jung “went crazy”, even though making open and voluntary associations with Nazism so late into the Third Reich was surely a far more serious sign of mental imbalance than to investigate bio-energy or work with an orgone accumulator, as Reich did. Anyone who bothers to read the writings of Reich, or the experimental papers published by his honest investigators, will quickly learn, the discovery of the orgone energy is a scientific issue supported by a lot of confirming experimental work, The Orgone Accumulator Handbook: Wilhelm Reich’s Life-Energy Discoveries and Healing Tools for the 21st Century, with Construction Plans, Heretic’s Notebook: Emotions, Protocells, Ether-Drift, and Cosmic Life Energy, With New Research Supporting Wilhelm Reich, On Wilhelm Reich and Orgonomy and cannot be brushed aside as “evidence of madness” anymore than modern astronomy’s discussions on the no-less mysterious “dark matter”. Would we trust a book that condemned Dark Matter researchers into a mental lapse? Of course not. But Reich, whom everyone in mainstream psychoanalysis loves to hate, and against whom generations of professional “skeptics” have hurled every kind of bad opinion without even a shred of evidence, is openly tarred as having “lost his mind”, a “schizophrenic”. Later on page 270, author Danto quotes another malicious rumor about Reich from Anna Freud, reinforcing all the above, where she basically calls Reich dishonest and insane. No evidence has ever been offered by Anna Freud or any of the psychoanalysts, nor by author Danto, to support these slanders. But Danto does not point out that no evidence exists to support them, or that Anna Freud was herself quite neurotic and came to represent the sex-repressive branch of psychoanalysis. The statements by Anna Freud are simply quoted, and left standing as if they were “truth”. In the end, Reich proved correct about repression-affirming psychoanalysis, about the Nazis and communists (as equally pathological), about how psychoanalysis succumbed to appeasement ideology, and also about the orgone energy and even the “rain-making machines”.Wilhelm Reich and the Healing of Atmospheres: Modern Techniques for the Abatement of Desertification This book does contain a lot of important fact about the early period of the Sex-Pol movement in pre-Hitler Germany and Vienna, but you will have to already know that history from more authentic sources to spot the egregious errors. For example it minimaiizes Reich’s central role in the Sex-Pol history, committing lies-of-omission in addition to trying to discredit him as a nut-case. Given these terrible distortions about Reich, and the false history it presents in regard to Reich’s often central role, or the reasons why Reich’s organization was hotly opposed by both the Communist Party and the Nazis (he dared to openly criticized them both as pathological and anti-freedom, while mainstream psychoanalysis was trying to “get along” with them), I cannot recommend this as authentic history. For a counter, the reader is referenced to Reich’s own books, particularly People in Trouble: Volume Two of the Emotional Plague of Mankind, The Sexual Revolution: Toward a Self-Governing Character Structure, REICH SPEAKS OF FREUD, and The Mass

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