Sigmund Freud Institute

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Located in Frankfurt, Germany, the Sigmund Freud Institute is a state-supported research institute for psychoanalysis and its various applications. Research covers three broad areas: psychoanalytic therapy, foundations of psychoanalysis, and psychoanalysis and society; investigators target aspects of psychological health and illness in the context of economic development, and they study the theoretical and practical bases of psychoanalysis. The institute's psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapy clinic focuses on treatment and research alike.

The institute is closely identified with its founder and first director, Alexander Mitscherlich (1908-1982). In the summer of 1956, Mitscherlich organized a series of conferences at the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research) with the support of Max Horkheimer (1895-1973). With the intention of restoring contacts with the international psychoanalytic community, Mitscherlich invited the participation of analysts who had left Germany prior to the Second World War. Somewhat later, on April 27, 1960, the Institut und Ausbildungszentrum für Psychoanalyse und Psychosomatische Medizin (Institute and Training Center for Psychoanalysis and Psychosomatic Medicine) officially opened. After moving to new quarters in West Frankfurt on October 14, 1964, it was rechristened the Sigmund Freud Institute.

Psychoanalysis originated in Frankfurt with the Frankfurter Psychoanalytisches Institut, which opened in 1929 but met an abrupt end when in 1933 the National Socialists expelled its first director, Karl Landauer, who would later to die at the Nazi concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. Heinrich Meng (1887-1972), the institute's second director, was forced to emigrate along with colleagues Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (1889-1957), Erich Fromm (1900-1980), and Siegmund Heinrich Fuchs (S.H. Foulkes, 1898-1976).

The considerable achievement of the Sigmund Freud Institute under Mitscherlich's direction was to train new analysts with the help of analysts from abroad and to mount and maintain a conceptual and institutional forum for psychoanalysis in Germany. During the Cold War, the Sigmund Freud Institute became the most important psychoanalytic teaching institute in West Germany; its training protocols conforming to guidelines set by the German Psychoanalytic Society (DPV/API).

In addition to Mitscherlich, who led the institute from 1960 to 1976, its other directors include Clemens de Boor (1976-1983), Hermann Argelander (acting director, 1983-1985), Dieter Ohlmeier (1985-1992), and Horst-Eberhard Richter. Since 1995, in addition to providing treatment on an outpatient basis, the institute has supported research and education programs. The training of analysts, however, was transferred from the Freud Institute to the newly-created Frankfurter Psychoanalytische Institut in 1994. Werner Bohleber became president of the Frankfurter Institut in 1994.

The Sigmund Freud Institute, state supported and independent of the university system, has greatly contributed to reestablishing psychoanalysis in Germany, with its unique dual role as a research center and training institute. It has developed an original approach to research projects and brought psychoanalytic investigations to bear on questions of social psychology.

Michael Laier

See also: Berliner Psychoanalytisches Institut; Foulkes (Fuchs), Siegmund Heinrich; Germany; Goethe Prize; Landauer, Karl; Meng, Heinrich; Mitscherlich, Alexander.


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Kutter, Peter. Germany. In Psychoanalysis international: A guide to psychoanalysis throughout the world. Vol. 1, Europe. (p. 114-136) Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog.

Mitscherlich, Alexander. (1980). Ein Leben für die Psychoanalyse, Anmerkungen zu meiner Zeit. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.

Plänkers, Thomas et al. (1996). Psychoanalyse in Frankfurt am Main: Zerstörte Anfänge, Wiederannäherung, Entwicklungen. Tübingen: Diskord.