Thursday, May 13, 2010


From the 1890s until his death in 1939, the Austrian  physician Sigmund Freud developed a method of psychotherapy  known as psychoanalysis. Freud's understanding of the mind was largely based on interpretive methods, introspection  and clinical observations, and was focused in particular on resolving unconscious conflict, mental distress and psychopathology. Freud's theories became very well-known, largely because they tackled subjects such as sexuality, repression, and the unconscious mind as general aspects of psychological development. These were largely considered taboo subjects at the time, and Freud provided a catalyst for them to be openly discussed in polite society. Clinically, he helped to pioneer the method of free association and a therapeutic interest in dreams.

Freud had a significant influence on Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, whose analytical psychology became an alternative form of depth psychology. Other well-known psychoanalytic thinkers of the mid-twentieth century included German-American psychologist Erik Erickson, Austrian-British psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, English psychoanalyst and physician D. W. Winnicott, German psychologist Karen Horney, German-born psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm, English psychiatrist John Bowlby and Sigmund Freud's daughter, psychoanalyst Anna Freud. Throughout the 20th century, psychoanalysis evolved into diverse schools of thought, most of which may be classed as Neo-Freudian.c

Psychoanalytic theory and therapy were criticized by psychologists and philosophers such as B. F. Skinner, Hans Eysenck, and Karl Popper. Skinner and other behaviorists believed that psychology should be more empirical and efficient than psychoanalysis—although they frequently agreed with Freud in ways that became overlooked as time passed.  Popper, a philosopher of science, argued that Freud's, as well as Alfred Adler's, psychoanalytic theories included enough ad hoc safeguards against empirical contradiction to keep the theories outside the realm of scientific inquiry.  By contrast, Eysenck maintained that although Freudian ideas could be subjected to experimental science, they had not withstood experimental tests. By the 21st century, psychology departments in American universities had become experimentally oriented, marginalizing Freudian theory and regarding it as a "desiccated and dead" historical artifact.  Meanwhile, however, researchers in the emerging field of neuro-psychoanalysis defended some of Freud's ideas on scientific grounds,d while scholars of the humanities maintained that Freud was not a "scientist at all, but ... an interpreter."