Not Just a Fashion Problem

This is a frustrating but typical article about psychoanalysis in the New York Times. It talks about the long time analysis takes and how expensive it tends to be, but entirely fails to address the very serious substantive questions there are about the scientific status of psychoanalysis: questions about evidence, falsifiability, and outright dishonesty on the part of Freud. The news seems still not to have reached the general public, including even the branch of it that writes for the newpapers, that psychoanalysis is not just out of fashion, not just not altogether cool anymore, but rather, largely considered a fraud by scientists in the field.

The article presents a false dichotomy throughout, between cheap and quick fixes on the one hand, and on the other, more profound, searching mental changes that psychoanalysis can offer. Not considered is the obvious possibility that any therapy that lasts for years and gives someone a chance to discuss her mind with an attentive listener would produce such changes. Not to mention what spending a similar small fortune on the right books might do.

At its best, Dr. Galatzer-Levy said, what analysis has to offer is change that is far deeper than what may be achieved in the 6 to 20 sessions of therapy covered by most insurance plans, change affecting ‘the way people think and feel about things, the way they act in the world.’

Certainly. But some of that change could be deep but in the wrong direction. And other, scientifically based forms of therapy, or simply some good hard thought, could produce equally deep change, and in less dubious directions. Freud was more than just a fad from last century, he was wrong. The word needs to get out.

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