A Psychotherapy for the People: Toward a Progressive Psychoanalysis, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

A Psychotherapy for the People

Toward a Progressive Psychoanalysis, 1st Edition

By Lewis Aron, Karen Starr


442 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415529990
pub: 2012-12-03
Hardback: 9780415529983
pub: 2012-12-03
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How did psychoanalysis come to define itself as being different from psychotherapy? How have racism, homophobia, misogyny and anti-Semitism converged in the creation of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis? Is psychoanalysis psychotherapy? Is psychoanalysis a "Jewish science"?

Inspired by the progressive and humanistic origins of psychoanalysis, Lewis Aron and Karen Starr pursue Freud's call for psychoanalysis to be a "psychotherapy for the people." They present a cultural history focusing on how psychoanalysis has always defined itself in relation to an "other." At first, that other was hypnosis and suggestion; later it was psychotherapy. The authors trace a series of binary oppositions, each defined hierarchically, which have plagued the history of psychoanalysis. Tracing reverberations of racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and homophobia, they show that psychoanalysis, associated with phallic masculinity, penetration, heterosexuality, autonomy, and culture, was defined in opposition to suggestion and psychotherapy, which were seen as promoting dependence, feminine passivity, and relationality. Aron and Starr deconstruct these dichotomies, leading the way for a return to Freud's progressive vision, in which psychoanalysis, defined broadly and flexibly, is revitalized for a new era.

A Psychotherapy for the People will be of interest to psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, clinical psychologists, psychiatrists--and their patients--and to those studying feminism, cultural studies and Judaism.


"Most contemporary clinical psychologists know little or nothing about contemporary psychoanalytic clinical psychology. Far too often, more on the basis of biased preconceptions than on opinion holders’ conversant familiarity with contemporary psychoanalytic literature, nonpsychoanalytically oriented psychologists see psychoanalytic thought and practice as racist, sexist, homophobic—and outdated, irrelevant, ineffective, and dangerous: this, despite compelling meta-analyses (Shedler, 2010) showing that psychodynamic psychotherapy is, for most patients seen by clinicians, the most effective intervention we have, with the largest effect size and the most enduring results. Lewis Aron and Karen Starr’s book A Psychotherapy for the People: Toward a Progressive Psychoanalysis has the potential to change this state of affairs. It needs to be widely read and discussed." - Richard Ruth, PsycCRITIQUES

"Can psychoanalysis achieve the universality to which it lays claim? Only by giving it up, goes the dialectical argument of A Psychotherapy for the People: Toward a Progressive Psychoanalysis. Aron and Starr return psychoanalysis to its proper place on the cultural edge. They unveil the binaries – and behind them the hierarchies - that both power and weaken psychoanalysis. This anti-authoritarian book gives us good reason to hope that, by embracing its native complexity, psychoanalysis can realize its capacity to help, illuminate, and heal. Toward a heterodox psychoanalysis!" - Muriel Dimen PhD, Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, New York University

"When a book combines a profound understanding of psychoanalysis with a profound understanding of its historical and social context, that is a rare event indeed. When, in addition, it illuminates the still unrealized potentials of psychoanalysis to contribute to social progress, we have a truly landmark contribution. A Psychotherapy for the People should be required reading for anyone interested in psychoanalysis – or, for that matter, the human condition." - Paul L. Wachtel, CUNY Distinguished Professor, Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center

"A Psychotherapy for the People is unique, unusually daring, intellectually adventurous and highly illuminating. Aron and Starr are guided by a humane and complex vision that encompasses the vulnerability and social trauma, the human failings and strengths that underlay a great intellectual achievement. They offer a sorely needed perspective on the binary oppositions and patriarchal biases that snagged so many psychoanalytic thinkers. This is a book that could well frame the central issues for everyone who hopes to preserve the talking cure, the dynamic therapy that can serve us all." - Jessica Benjamin, Clinical Professor, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis

Table of Contents

Dedication. Acknowledgments. Preface. Introduction: A Psychotherapy for the People. Binaries, Polarities, and Thirds. Guilt and Shame. Treatment and Care. Psychoanalysis in Uniform. Psychoanalysis as War Hero. Psychoanalysis as Holocaust Survivor. Psychoanalysis versus Psychotherapy: Definition via Binary Opposition. Comic Book Crusaders: Psychoanalysis as Superhero. Charcot and Bernheim: Origins of Intrapsychic and Relational Models of Mind. Women on the Couch: Genital Stimulation and the Birth of Psychoanalysis. Freud’s Anti-Semitic Surround. The Right to Pass: Psychoanalysis’ Jewish Identity. Universalizing the Jewish Problem. Freud, Ferenczi, and Schreber: Wandering Jews. Ethics, Universalism, and the "Jewish Science". What is Psychoanalysis? Can You Say "Shibboleth"? Monsters, Ghosts, and Undecidables. References.

About the Authors

Lewis Aron is the Director of the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. He is author and editor of numerous articles and books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, including A Meeting of Minds and the Relational Perspectives Book Series. He was one of the co-founders of the journal Psychoanalytic Dialogues. He has served as President of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association; founding President of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP); founding President of the Division of Psychologist-Psychoanalysts of the New York State Psychological Association (NYSPA). He is the co-founder and co-chair of the Sandor Ferenczi Center at the New School for Social Research, and is an Honorary Member of the William Alanson White Psychoanalytic Society. He practices and leads numerous study groups in New York City and Port Washington, NY.

Karen Starr is the author of Repair of the Soul: Metaphors of Transformation in Judaism and Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2008). She is a candidate at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and a recipient of the Ruth Stein Prize. She is in private practice in New York City.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis