John Suler's Teaching Clinical Psychology


Freud: The Master... or a Has-Been?

Not long ago I heard about a publisher that balked at an introductory psychology book submitted by a respectable professor because it didn't criticize psychoanalysis. Few college professors, according to the publisher, will buy a textbook if it is favorable towards Freud.

The bias that sometimes misleads many academics in psychology is truly unfortunate. Personally, I believe that no single person has had a greater influence on psychiatry, clinical psychology, and the field of psychotherapy, than Freud. I feel I would be doing a disservice to my students if I didn't teach them about his indispensable ideas about the unconscious, psychotherapy, defense mechanisms, dreams, and transference.

As many people do, I believe there are limitations to Freud's theory as there are to any theory, as well as a tendency towards orthodoxy within some psychoanalytic circles that damages the reputation of psychoanalysis. I want my students to know about how psychoanalysis has evolved over the past hundred years since Freud - including such wide-ranging topics as ego psychology, object relations theory, self psychology, and psychoanalytic phenomenology.

I also firmly believe in the need to integrate psychoanalytic ideas with those from other fields in psychology - humanistic theory, behavioral theory, biopsychology. One of my particular areas of interest is in the enrichment of psychoanalysis by integrating it with ideas from religious/spiritual disciplines - especially Eastern spiritual traditions like Zen and Taoism, which is the subject of my book Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Eastern Thought. This integration, I believe, follows the spirit of a multicultural education for psychology students.

Here are two books I would recommend for anyone interested in the role played by psychoanalysis in the professional and academic world of psychology:

BULLET A history of the Division of Psychoanalysis of the American Psychological Association, by Robert Lane and Murray Meisels, Murray (Eds.)

BULLET Training and Teaching the Mental Health Professional, by Jed Yalof.

Examining the teaching and learning process from a psychoanalytic perspective, this study also considers the metamorphic implications of the educational setting as a holding environment for teacher, student and administrator. It also examines the intensity of the teacher-student relationship.

back to the Essays on Teaching page

back to the Teaching Clinical Psychology home page