by Michael Donner, PhD
San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalytic Education Division Graduation 2015
Following is the text of the graduation address given by Michael Donner, PhD
Thirty five years ago, while being interviewed for my graduate program, the person interviewing me asked: “Why do you want to be a psychotherapist? The era of the individual psychotherapist is over.” Since then, we have all heard the repeated refrain: CBT, evidence based therapies, medications and mindfulness all herald the death of psychoanalysis. Just a month ago, Tom Leonard wrote an article in The Spectator magazine titled “Why American Psychoanalysts Are An Endangered Species”, noting that “Drugs, yoga, CBT and busy lives are occupying the space once reserved for the shrink’s couch.” He sadly (and somewhat snidely) noted that the average age of analysts is up, the average number of patients are down, and that the so called “worried well” have much more to worry about in this modern age. And yet, here we are, commemorating the graduation of nine candidates, celebrating the careers of nine new psychoanalysts.
Some of what Leonard writes is true. We are older, grayer, and may be seeing fewer patients in 4 - 5 times weekly psychoanalysis. As I was reading this most recent obituary proclaiming the death of psychoanalysis, I did a little digging. 118 years ago tomorrow, Mark Twain famously corrected newspaper rumors about his demise by writing to a journalist of the day: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” I believe the reports of the death of psychoanalysis are just as wrong.