Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute

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Psychoanalysis in Boston dates from 1906, when James Jackson Putnam published the first paper in English on the treatment of hysteria by "Freud's method of psycho-analysis." In 1909, Putnam met Ernest Jones, a Welshman then living in Canada, at Morton Prince's house, where Boston psychiatrists regularly met to discuss the current psychotherapies of suggestion. Jones was a vigorous spokesman for Freud, and with Putnam's growing enthusiasm for psychoanalysis, both men took part in the annual meeting of the American Therapeutic Society, opened by Morton Prince. Putnam spoke on Freud's discoveries about the childhood origins of adult neuroses, and Jones firmly differentiated psychoanalysis from all the psychotherapies of suggestion. He emphasized the difference between the hypnotist's domination of his subject and the analyst's use of free-association, "in almost every respect the reverse of treatment by suggestion."

This meeting marked the high point of the psychotherapy movement, welcoming psychoanalysis as if it were another form of suggestive therapy. Its importance was soon overshadowed in September 1909 by the Clark University Lectures at Worcester, Massachusetts, where G. Stanley Hall, an experimental psychologist and friend of William James, had invited many notable scientists to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Clark. Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung. Sándor Ferenczi, Jones, and Abraham Arden Brill all attended. Brill had studied analysis in Zürich with Jung in 1908, where he met Jones, and together they had visited Freud. At Clark, Freud delivered his Introductory Lectures, his only address to the general public, and was invited by Putnam to visit their family camp after the meetings.

Thus Putnam developed a close friendship with Freud, reflected in their lively correspondence, and he and Jones proselytized widely for the cause of psychoanalysis. Jones persuaded him to found the American Psychoanalytic Association in 1911, and Putnam was its first president. (Shortly before, Brill had founded the New York Psychoanalytic Society.) Putnam established the first of several Boston Psychoanalytic Societies in 1914, which met weekly until his death in 1918.

Putnam's successor was Isidor Coriat, who reestablished the Boston Psychoanalytic Society in 1924-1928, and again in 1930. He was the only Freudian analyst in Boston during the period after Putnam's death, leading an eclectic group of men and women analyzed by Freud, Jung, Otto Rank, and Paul Schilder.

During this era, Americans were obliged to travel abroad for analytic training, and in 1930 four newly-trained analysts, led by Ives Hendrick, arrived in Boston from Vienna and Berlin. They sought to create an institute, modeled on the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, that provided full analytic training, with analyses, seminars, and supervised control-cases. The first training-analyst was Franz Alexander, who came to Boston in 1930 and returned a year later to found the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute. In Boston, Alexander was succeeded by Hanns Sachs, a leading training-analyst from Berlin, but not a physician. This created conflicts with Hendrick's new constitution, which rejected non-M.D.s for training, and required approval by an Admissions Committee, rather than by the individual analyst. After a stormy period of reorganization, half the membership resigned, to allow ten properly analyzed members to be approved by the American Psychoanalytic Association. Boston became a constituent Society in 1933, and in 1947 a Society/Institute, called the BPSI.

The original members were mostly Americans, with a few Canadians, until the arrival of Felix and Helene Deutsch in 1935. They were part of the great intellectual migration, fleeing from Nazi domination in Germany in 1933 and Austria in 1938. Within the vast influx of refugee artists, scholars, and scientists that transformed American cultural life, theémigré analysts formed a small but influential group. They most nearly resembled the architects of the avant-garde Bauhaus and the pioneer nuclear physicists, who seemed to represent new specialties, already sought after in Boston.

The European analysts were welcomed everywhere by eager colleagues and by their former analysands. In the Boston Institute, as its membership tripled over the next ten years, the refugees soon outnumbered their native American colleagues. Unlike other American cities with refugee analysts from all of Europe, most of Boston's analysts were Viennese. This occurred because the Deutsches were friends of Jenny and Robert Waelder, the next to arrive. The Waelders obtained an academic post for Edward Bibring, accompanied by his wife Grete, and Mrs. Beata Rank joined the Deutsches' circle. Lucie Jessner was the only non-Austrian refugee who completed her analytic training there.

As the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute became Europeanized, local American institutions were influential in the distribution of analysts within the community. The pioneer analyst Clarence Oberndorf had first noted the tendency for American analysts to hold positions in institutions. They worked in hospitals, medical schools, and schools of social work, in marked contrast to Freud's isolation from academic medicine. By 1949, ninety percent of Boston analysts held institutional posts of some kind, often working in research teams with non-analysts.

Another local tradition was Boston's unusual number of institutions devoted to children, including nineteenth-century protective agencies and the Home for Little Wanderers. The Judge Baker Guidance Center dated from 1917, and the new J. J. Putnam Children's Center from 1943, founded by Marian Putnam, the daughter of Boston's first analyst, and Beata Rank from Freud's Viennese circle. Created for the study and treatment of preschool children, the Putnam Center came to specialize in the long-term treatment of childhood autism. Child analysts were soon established in other clinics and all the university teaching hospitals. Thus Boston became an important center for training in child psychotherapy.

In two other American specialties, psychosomatic medicine and general hospital psychiatry (consultation-liaison psychiatry), Boston analysts played important parts. Stanley Cobb, chief of psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and a founding member of the BPSI, established the first department of psychiatry in a general hospital in 1935. He taught interns and medical students how to understand their medical and surgical patients, as well as psychiatric patients, a tradition his successor Erich Lindemann continued with his medical students. Cobb welcomed refugee analysts to the MGH and invited Felix Deutsch to collaborate in psychosomatic research. Deutsch, like Franz Alexander in Chicago, expanded psychosomatic research into a major specialty, far beyond its limited scope in Vienna.

After the Second World War, there was a great increase in the demand for psychoanalytic training, partly prompted by physicians returning from military service. They had been exposed to great numbers of psychiatric casualties and taught psychoanalytic methods of treatment, like the "abreaction" therapy of Grinker and Spiegel. This demand for psychiatrists was supported by a corresponding increase in government funds for psychoanalytic training and research.

The next twenty years was a halcyon era for psychoanalysis in Boston. The Institute increased from a few dozen members in the 1930s to over one hundred active and affiliate members in 1974 and more than two hundred by the beginning of the twenty-first century. All the chiefs of psychiatry in hospitals and medical schools were analysts, and psychiatry was a popular specialty for young physicians. For some residents psychoanalytic training was accepted as the next step in academic advancement.

The high tide in analysis began to ebb in the late 1960s, during the Vietnam War, with cuts in federal support for analytic training and research. The number of suitable patients for psychoanalysis began to dwindle, both for analysts and for candidates with supervised cases. Within the BPSI there was dissatisfaction among candidates and younger analysts, who resented the impersonality of training and the dictatorship of the Education Committee. An experiment with a deanship proved unsuccessful, and its termination by the Education Committee provoked violent protests as high-handed and autocratic.

A period of strife followed, with attempts to create a better balance between the functions of the Institute and the Society. The conflict seemed to be between traditionalists and reformers, but the crucial issue was resentment over the limited access to training-analyst status. From 1973-1974, five training analysts proposed to secede from the Institute, while retaining their membership in the Society. Their aims were vague, but they emphasized the creation of a smaller group, free from committee work and bureaucratic rules, with a more intimate atmosphere for intellectual discussion. The new Psychoanalytic Institute of New England, called PINE, was recognized by the American Psychoanalytic Association in 1991.

In spite of fears that Boston was too small for two institutes, and that the new institute would graduate many unqualified training-analysts, PINE proved successful. Both institutes have flourished, and a third Boston institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis (MIP) was founded by clinical psychologists.

All institutes have faced the continuing decline in suitable patients and the recent loss of traditional psychiatric institutions, like the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. In spite of these unfavorable changes in the economic and cultural support for psychoanalysis, as well as changes in clinical psychiatry and medicine itself, the number of applicants for analytic training has diminished relatively little. The BPSI has even expanded in terms of outreach to the community, public lectures on cultural topics, and elective courses for non-analysts on psychoanalytic psychotherapy. The viability of analytic training seems partly sustained by offering supervision in long-term psychotherapy, while dynamic teaching in medical schools has been declining. And the scientific and intellectual life of the analytic community remains lively and attractive, in contrast to the increasingly organic orientation of current clinical psychiatry, with its emphasis on drugs and the genetic etiologies of mental illness.

Sanford Gifford


Gifford, Sanford. (1978). Psychoanalysis in Boston: Innocence and experience. In G. E. Gifford Jr. (Ed.), Psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and the New England medical scene, 1894-1944 (pp. 325-345). New York: Science History Publications.

Grinker, R. R., and Spiegel, J. P. (1934). War neuroses in North Africa, the Tunisian campaign September-May 1943. New York: Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

Hale, Nathan G. Jr. (1971). Freud and the Americans: The beginnings of psychoanalysis in the United States, 1876-1917. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Rosenzweig, Saul. (1992). The historic expedition to America 1909: Freud, Jung and Hall the king-maker. St. Louis, MO: Rana House.

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Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute

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