Quatrième Groupe (O. P. L. F.), Fourth Group

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The Quatrième groupe (Fourth group) of the Organisation psychanalytique de la langue française (O. P. L. F., French-Language Psychoanalytic Group) is one of the larger psychoanalytic groups in France. It claims to follow principles and methods that have opened up a third way between Lacanism and the standards of the International Psychoanalytical Association.

The Quatrième groupe was born out of the third split in the French psychoanalytic movement, which occurred in March 1969. This was after the 1953 split, which gave rise to the Société française de psychanalyse (French Psychoanalytic Society), and the 1963 split, which divided the Société française de psychanalyse into the Association psychanalytique de France (French Psychoanalytic Association) and theÉcole Freudienne de Paris (Freudian School of Paris), created by Jacques Lacan.

The founders of the Quatrième groupePiera Aulagnier, François Perrier, and Jean-Paul Valabregahad been members of the first board of directors of theÉcole Freudienne de Paris, but very soon, with the resignation of Perrier in 1967, followed by that of Valabrega, they reproached him for setting up institutional formations that he had previously criticized. In addition to this criticism of Lacan's leadership, the direct cause of the split was their rejection of new modes of psychoanalytic training (the "pass") that Lacan had just put in place in December 1968.

The first of the meetings that would result in the formation of the Quatrième groupe took place in Ermenonville, north of Paris. The group was officially founded on March 17, 1969, and at first included only ten people. Its officers were François Perrier, president; Jean-Paul Valabrega, vice-president; Piera Castoriadis-Aulagnier, psychoanalytic secretary; Evelyne-Anne Gasquères, scientific secretary; Jean-Paul Moreigne, administrative secretary; and Gabrielle Dorey, treasurer.

The Quatrième groupe was founded on considerations of both the essence of psychoanalysis and the form of institution most likely to sustain the principles of its practice and transmission. These considerations resulted from the experience of the Société française de psychanalyse, in which Lacan was the major driving force, but also from a critique of both the institution and practice of Lacanism (most notably, the short sessions). This critique lent its tone to the Quatrième groupe's declaration of principles and methods: "Between the idealism of principles and the authoritarianism of ideologies, it is appropriate to pinpoint difficulties and to define the impossible....It will be found that the three terms of 'ability,' 'membership,' and 'training' are a source of insoluble conflicts and the sticking points of post-Freudianism" (Topique, 1 [1969]).

The issue of ability was linked to that of the effects of the training analysis, which is particularly dangerous if the training analysis is defined as Lacan did, that is, as aiming at "pure," as opposed to "applied," analysis. The issue of membership opened up the possibility of feudal loyalty based solely on analytic affiliations. And the issue of training raised the risk of basing the status of analyst on the attainment of a diploma or on the rituals of collegial recognition. This triple preoccupation can be summed up as a concern over whether an analytic society can manage to banish "alienation" (Mijolla-Mellor, 1996), and it is the basis of a functional mechanism for coping with this difficulty.

The Quatrième group's declaration of principles and methods ultimately made up what would be called the "Blue Notebook," that is, the founding charter of 1969 (Topique, 1 [1969]), along with later modifications to that charter in 1970 (Topique, 6 [1971]), in 1983 (Topique, 32 [1983]), and in 1985 and 1986 (Topique, 38 [1986]). These successive modifications were aimed at "refounding" the institution (during "refounding" sessions) in order to avoid ossification.

The two main points of its principles and methods were the following: First, the composition of the group was limited to two categories of membership. Those in the first category were successively called tenured members, then subscribing members, and finally member analysts. Those in the second category were called candidates, then contributors, and then participants. They were not considered trainees, and their status did not guarantee their potential careers as analysts. They were defined as guests either as colleagues already authorized by other societies or as auditors in the midst of their analyses who wanted to attend the Quatrième groupe's scientific events (such as seminars and lectures) or participate in its institutional activities (as observers). Passage from the status of participant to that of member analyst posed difficult issues of recognition and the process of authorization.

Second, at the end of a personal analysis, which was not distinguished from a training analysis, whether with a member of the Quatrième groupe or not, the candidate analyst, who was usually a participant member, could decide to undertake a "fourth analysis" (analyse quatrième) with a member analyst. The fourth analysis is a private act based on an agreement between the person who requests it and the analyst who agrees to it. After one or more fourth analyses, during which the applicant not only develops an analytic ear (under supervision) but also learns to pinpoint the effects that identification with one's own analyst can have on one's practice, the candidate begins a process of authorization that takes place in between analyses. This process consists of a series of meetings with member analysts who have been chosen by the candidate and have agreed to the request. The "fourth analyst" may or may not be among them. During these interanalytic meetings there is discussion of a case or any analytic question posed by the participants. After at least two or three of these meetings, there are more meetings with other analysts, always chosen by the candidate. At the end of this usually long process, one of the meetings is declared to be "authorizing" by the member analysts in attendance. They have the responsibility, with the agreement of the whole group, of deciding on the authorization of the new member analyst and reporting it to the ratifying assembly. At any time, the candidate can request the participation of an "analytic secretary," a member elected by the officers of the Quatrième groupe, if the candidate thinks it would be useful. The secretary has no decision-making power over the candidate. Obviously, this procedure does away with training analysts and the status of trainee. Yet it is strictly codified so that candidates can be authorized only through this process.

This procedure has several advantages. Even if there were no committees, commissions, or boards of admissions, the analytic and scientific secretaries would still provide applicants the possibility of discussing the soundness of their interests and abilities. Moreover, member analysts, merely by being chosen to participate in interanalytic meetings, also contribute to advancing the process of recognition. Consulting analysts thus fulfill their roles as institutional representatives, as opposed to the collective lack of responsibility favored by centralized bureaucracies. In addition, whether it is a matter of the interanalytic meetings or of the authorization itself, any conclusions reached or decisions made must be discussed in the presence of the candidate. Finally, the several fourth analyses and several interanalytic meetings guarantee the principle of multiple references in the process of training so that authorization is not reduced to a kind of feudal initiation based on personal loyalty. Naturally, at every step in the process the candidate's own analyst is prohibited from intervening.

In its earlier formulations, the process of authorization also included a final step in which the candidate would write a memoir to be presented to the whole group at a scientific assembly. This presentation marked the moment of the candidate's acceptance. Even though this practice is no longer followed in quite the same form, candidates, over the course of the long process of authorization, still present their work in meetings of working groups and also possibly at conferences or in scientific journals.

The mechanisms that the Quatrième groupe has put in place aim at responding to a major problem in analytic societies and the principle cause of their dissolution, namely the question of training and authorization. The status of analyst is problematic in that it can only be put to the test during treatment, in the face of an ungraspable entity, the unconscious.

A statement added to the "Blue Notebook" in 1983 concludes, "Our model of analytic training and authorization does not pretend to be permanent or perfect. It would be good if Winston Churchill's statement about democracy could be applied to it: that it is 'the worst form of government, with the exception of all the others.' "

Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor

See also: Fourth analysis, Analyse quatrième; France; Pass, the; Splits in psychoanalysis.


Aulagnier, Piera. (1986). Un interprète en quête de sens. Paris: Ramsay.

Mijolla, Alain de. (2001). Splits in the French psychoanalytic movement between 1953 and 1964. In R. Steiner and J. Jonas. (Eds.), Within Time and Beyond Time (pp. 1-24). London: Karnac.

Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie de. (1996). Aliénator, ou les enjeux théoriques de la troisième scission dans le mouvement psychanalytique en France. Cliniques méditerranéennes, 49-50, 79-93.

Valabrega, Jean-Paul. (1994). La formation du psychanalyste. Paris: Payot.