Tosquelles, François (1912-1994)

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François Tosquelles, a French physician, hospital psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and founder of the movement for institutional psychotherapy, was born on August 12, 1912, in Reus (Catalonia, Spain) and died on September 24, 1994, in Granges-sur-Lot (France). He was reared in Reus in a progressive and culture-loving environment until he sat for his baccalaureate at the age of fifteen. He then enrolled in the medical school of Barcelona University, where he met Sándor Eiminder, an Austrian refugee fleeing Nazism, who became his psychoanalyst. As early as 1934 he was appointed to work as a physician in the Instituto Pere Mata and enjoyed the benefits of being psychoanalytically monitored by Werner Wolf, a German refugee who had settled in Barcelona.

In 1936 Spain elected the Popular Front and rapidly found itself facing down fascism. Tosquelles was appointed psychiatric head of the republican army. He implemented group techniques derived directly from psychoanalysis to treat psychological decompensation in soldiers, as Wilfrid Bion and John Rickman were to do in Great Britain during World War II.

Forced to flee Spain after the defeat of the republicans, he arrived in France and settled in Saint-Albansur-Limagnole (in the Lozère department) in 1940. As a result of his work with Lucien Bonnafé, André Chaurand, and many others during the period of Resistance, the Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole psychiatric hospital became the crucible of a unique experiment based on the discoveries of psychoanalysis and aimed at treating the most seriously ill mental patients from a psychodynamic perspective. He worked with a large number of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, the best known among them being Jean Oury, Hélène Chaigneau, Jean Ayme, Horace Torrubia, Roger Gentis, Philippe Rappard, and Yves Racine. Georges Daumézon and Philippe Koechlin later referred to this system as "institutional psychotherapy." It greatly contributed to changing the face of French psychiatry by developing the system of "sector psychiatry" set up in the 1960s and 1970s. In this innovative practice of psychiatry, ongoing treatment made it possible to take the psychoanalytic concept of the transference relation into account. We find echoes of this system in Tosquelles's bookÉducation et psychothérapie institutionelle (Education and institutional psychotherapy; 1984).

Tosquelles was very attached to a global conception of the human being. In his psychoanalytic practice he treated children and adults, individuals and groups, using the techniques of classical treatment and psycho-drama. A polyglot possessing vast knowledge, he never ceased to establish links between the world of psychiatry and the discoveries of psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and anthropology. The quality of his presence for the other, his clinical intuition, his lively personality, and his indefatigable search to improve conditions for mental patients made him a unique figure in the history of psychoanalysis.

In the domain of psychoanalysis he was mainly responsible for introducing an in-depth approach to the study of psychopathology and the psychoses. Whether in the psychoanalytic study and comprehension of delusional manifestations and other elements in the behavior of schizophrenic and autistic patients or in reflection on the transference relations that come into play in their treatment, both for the patient and the therapist Tosquelles had the capacity to render complex psychoanalytic problems accessible and crystal-clear, irrespective of the status of his listeners.

Tosquelles instituted a movement of institutional psychotherapy that was furthered by Jean Oury, and continued by many psychiatrists and psychoanalysts. Moreover, he greatly contributed to demonstrating the importance of the nursing team. These contributions responded in part to the wish that Freud expressed at the Budapest Congress in 1918: "When this happens, institutions or out-patient clinics will be started, to which analytically-trained physicians will be appointed, so that men who would otherwise give way to drink, women for whom there is no choice between running wild or neurosis, may be made capable, by analysis, of resistance and of efficient work" (1919a [1918]).

A collection of papers, Actualité de la psychothérapie institutionelle (The current state of institutional psychotherapy; 1994), includes Tosquelles's last publication.

Pierre Delion

See also: Fanon, Frantz; France.


Delion, Pierre (Ed.). (1994). Actualité de la psychothérapie institutionnelle. Vigneux, France:Éditions Matrice.

Ellul, Jacques, Tosquelles, François, Corbin, Jean-François, et al. (1987). La Genèse aujourd 'hui. Nantes, France: Arefpi.

Freud, Sigmund. (1919a [1918]). Lines of advance in psycho-analytic therapy. SE, 17: 157-168.

Tosquelles, François. (1967). Structure et rééducation thérapeutique. Paris:Éditions Universitaires.

. (1984).Éducation et psychothérapie institutionelle. Mantes, France: Hiatus.

. (1986). Le vécu de la fin du monde dans la folie. Nantes, France: Arefpi.

. (1992). L 'enseignement de la folie. Toulouse, France: Privat.