A brief history of psychoanalysis: From Freud to fantasy to folly

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Dianna Kenny [1], Professor, University of Sydney     



Psychoanalysis has had a long gestation, during the course of which it has experienced multiple rebirths, leading some current authors to complain that there has been such a proliferation of theories of psychoanalysis over the past 115 years that the field has become theoretically fragmented and is in disarray (Fonagy & Target, 2003; Rangell, 2006). In this paper, Kenny surveys the past and present landscapes of psychoanalytic theorizing and clinical practice to trace the evolution of Freud’s original insights and psychoanalytic techniques to current theory and practice. First, the article sketches the evolutionary chronology of psychoanalytic theory; second, it discusses the key psychoanalytic techniques derived from clinical practice, with which psychoanalysis is most strongly identified; third, it interrogates whether Freud’s original theoretical conceptualizations and clinical practices are still recognizable in current psychoanalytic theory and practice, using four key exemplars – object relations theory, attachment-informed psychotherapy, existential/ phenomenological and intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy; and fourth, the article discusses recent disintegrative developments in psychoanalytic scholarship. To this end, the article critiques the cul-de-sacs into which some psychoanalytic scholars have directed us and concludes with the hope that the current state of affairs can be remedied. 



Address for correspondence:
Professor Dianna Kenny

Email: dianna.kenny@sydney.edu.au