an Shedler, P
nce to jonatha
PhD. All right
That Was T
n to Contem
ersity of Colo
PhD” on Face
an Shedler, P
ment of Psych
ol of Medicin
“Look at yourself honestly and unflinchingly to the very bottom of your mind.”
Calligraphy by Shihan Tsutomo Ohshima, Martial Arts Master
This work-in-progress provides a jargon-free introduction to contemporary
psychodynamic thought. It is intended for trainees and for practitioners trained in other
therapy approaches. I wrote it because existing books did not meet my students’ needs.
Many classic introductions to psychoanalytic therapy are dated. They describe the
psychoanalytic thinking of decades ago, not today. Others contain too much jargon to be
accessible, or assume prior knowledge that few contemporary readers possess. Still
others have a partisan agenda of promoting one psychoanalytic school of thought over
others, but students are ill-served by drawing them into internecine theoretical disputes.
Finally, some otherwise excellent books assume an interested and sympathetic reader, an
assumption that is often unwarranted. Many students have been exposed to
considerable disinformation about psychoanalytic thought and approach it with
inaccurate and pejorative preconceptions.
The title is a double entendre. “That was then, this is now” alludes to a central
aim of psychoanalytic therapy, which is to help free people from the bonds of past
experience in order to live more fully in the present. People tend to react to what was
rather than what is, and psychoanalytic therapy aims to help with this. The title also
alludes to sea changes in psychoanalytic thinking that have occurred over the past
decades. For too many, the term “psychoanalysis” conjures up century old stereotypes
that bear little resemblance to what contemporary practitioners think and do.
These chapters were intended as the beginning of a book. I may finish it one day
but the project is on the back burner. For now, this is it.
Roots of Misunderstanding
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy may be the most misunderstood of all therapies. I
teach a course in psychoanalytic therapy for clinical psychology doctoral students, many
of whom would not be there if it were not required. I begin by asking the students to
write down their beliefs about psychoanalytic therapy. Most express highly inaccurate
preconceptions. The preconceptions come not from first-hand encounters with
psychoanalytic practitioners, but from media depictions, from undergraduate psychology
professors who refer to psychoanalytic concepts in their courses but understand little
about them, and from textbooks that present caricatures of psychoanalytic theories that
were out of date half a century ago.
Some of the more memorable misconceptions are: That psychoanalytic concepts
apply only to the privileged and wealthy; that psychoanalytic concepts and treatments
lack empirical support (for a comprehensive review of empirical evidence, see Shedler,
2010); that psychoanalysts “reduce everything” to sex and aggression; that they keep
patients in long term treatment merely for financial gain; that psychoanalytic theories
are sexist, racist, or classist (insert your preferred politically incorrect adjective); that
Sigmund Freud, the originator of psychoanalysis, was a cocaine addict who developed his
theories under the influence; that he was a child molester (a graduate of an Ivy League
university had somehow gotten this bizarre notion from one of her professors); and that
the terms “psychoanalytic” and “Freudian” are synonyms—as if psychoanalytic
knowledge has not advanced since the early 1900s.
Most psychoanalytic therapists have no idea how to respond to the question (all
too common at cocktail parties), “Are you a ‘Freudian?’” The question has no
meaningful answer, and I myself fear that any answer I give will lead to
misunderstanding. In a basic sense, all mental health professionals are “Freudian”
because so many of Freud’s concepts have simply been assimilated into the broader
culture of psychotherapy. Many Freudian ideas now seem so commonplace,
commonsense, and taken-for-granted that people do not recognize that they originated
with Freud and were radical at the time. For example, most people take it for granted
that trauma can cause emotional and physical symptoms, that our care in the early years
profoundly affects our adult lives, that people have complex and often contradictory
motives, that sexual abuse of children occurs and can have disastrous consequences, that
emotional difficulties can be treated by talking, that we sometimes find fault with others
for the very things we do not wish to see in ourselves, that it is exploitive and destructive
for therapists to have sexual relations with clients, and so on. These and many more
ideas that are commonplace in the culture of psychotherapy are “Freudian.” In this
sense, every contemporary psychotherapist is a (gasp) Freudian, like it or not. Even the
practice of meeting with clients for regularly scheduled appointments originated with
In another sense, the question “Are you a Freudian?” is unanswerable because no
contemporary psychoanalytic therapist is a “Freudian.” What I mean is that
psychoanalytic thinking has evolved radically since Freud’s day—not that you would
know this from reading most textbooks. In the past decades, there have been sea
changes in theory and practice. The field has grown in diverse directions, far from
Freud’s historical writings. In this sense, no one is a Freudian. Psychoanalysis is
continually evolving new models and paradigms. The development of psychoanalytic
thought did not end with Freud any more than the development of physics ended with
Newton, or the development of the behavioral tradition in psychology ended with
There are multiple schools of thought within psychoanalysis with different and
sometimes bitterly divisive views, and the notion that someone could tell you “the”
psychoanalytic view of something is quaint and naïve. There may be greater diversity of
viewpoints within psychoanalysis than within any other school of psychotherapy, if only
because psychoanalysis is the oldest of the therapy traditions. Asking a psychoanalyst
for “the” psychoanalytic perspective may be as meaningful as asking a philosophy
professor “the” philosophical answer to a question. I imagine the poor professor could
only shake her head in bemusement and wonder where to begin. So it is with
psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is not one theory but a diverse collection of theories,
each of which represents an attempt to shed light on one or another facet of human
What it isn’t
It may be easier to explain what psychoanalysis is not than what it is. For
starters, contemporary psychoanalysis is not a theory about id, ego, and superego (terms,
incidentally, that Freud did not use; they were introduced by a translator). Nor is it a
theory about “fixations,” or sexual and aggressive instincts, or repressed memories, or
the Oedipus complex, or penis envy, or castration anxiety. One could dispense with
every one of these ideas and the essence of psychoanalytic thinking and therapy would
remain intact. (Surprised?) Some psychoanalysts may find some of these concepts
helpful, sometimes. Many psychoanalysts reject every one of them.
If you learned in college that psychoanalysis is a theory about id, ego, and
superego, your professors did you a disservice. I hope you will not shoot the messenger
for telling you that you may be less prepared to understand psychoanalytic thought than
if you had never taken a psychology course at all. Interest in that particular model of the
mind (known as the “structural theory”) has long since given way to other theories and
models (cf. Person, Cooper, & Gabbard, 2005). There is virtually no mention of it in
contemporary psychoanalytic writings other than in historical contexts. In the late 20th
century, the theory’s strongest proponent eventually went on to argue that it was no
longer relevant to psychoanalysis (Brenner, 1994). When psychology textbooks present
the structural theory of id, ego, and superego as if it were synonymous with
psychoanalysis, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
It is fair to ask how so many textbooks could be so out of date and get it all so
wrong. Students have every reason to expect their textbooks to be accurate and
authoritative. The answer, in brief, is that psychoanalysis developed outside of the
academic world, mostly in freestanding institutes. For complex historical reasons, these
institutes tended to be rather insular, and for decades psychoanalysts did little to make
their ideas accessible to people outside their own closed circles. Some of the
psychoanalytic institutes were also arrogant and exclusive in the worst sense of the word
and did an admirable job of alienating other mental health professionals. This occurred
at a time when American psychoanalytic institutes were dominated by a hierarchical
medical establishment (for a historical perspective, see McWilliams, 2004). The
psychoanalytic institutes have changed but the hostility they engendered in other mental
health professions is likely to persist for years to come. It has been transmitted across
multiple generations of trainees, with each generation modeling the attitudes of its own
Academic psychology also played a role in perpetuating widespread
Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?
Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.
Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.
Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.
While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.
Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.
In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.
Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.
We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!
We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.
Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.
We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.
Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.
There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.
Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.
We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.
You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.
We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.
You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.
Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.
You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.
Delivering a high-quality product at a reasonable price is not enough anymore.
That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.
You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.Read more
Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.Read more
Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.Read more
Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.Read more
By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.Read more