by Anton O. Kris, M.D.

May 28th, 2008

Remarks on the History of BPSI for the Celebration of the 75th Anniversary

Howard asked me to say a few words about the history of our Society-Institute in celebration of our 75th Anniversary. A whole afternoon was devoted to this topic in 1958, at the 25th anniversary, recorded in Ives Hendrick’s book: The Birth of An Institute. So you won’t expect me to do justice to the topic in the very few minutes we can allot to it tonight.

Hendrick’s review – amazingly readable, despite its detailed account – traces the history of psychoanalysis in Boston from William James and James Jackson Putnam, Morton Prince, Stanley Hall (who arranged Freud’s visit to Worcester in 1909), and their successor in psychology at Harvard, Henry Murray, and also the psychiatrists at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital, McLean Hospital, and at Butler Hospital in Providence, and the independent clinical psychoanalysts, Isador Coriat (who had been a President of the American and became our first President), and, later, Martin Peck and George Wilbur. A group of four young American analysts, however, trained in Berlin and Vienna, created the Freud Seminar in 1930, the first organized training program in Boston: Leolia Dalrymple, Hendrick, M. Ralph Kaufman (whose son, Paul continues as a member of BPSI), and John Murray. This was the nucleus of the group that ushered the Boston Society and Institute into the American in 1933. BPSI was founded by an energetic group of psychiatrists in their thirties, opposing and joining with their elders – a condition that has been repeated several times in the ensuing years.

Franz Alexander was brought to Boston for a year (before he accepted an irresistible offer to found an Institute in Chicago). Hanns Sachs, an older, lay analyst, one of Freud’s “Committee”, came to replace him, despite the insistence on requiring medical degrees for candidates. Later, Beata Rank and the young Erik Erikson, both lay analysts, were brought in to teach child analysis. With the advent of the refugee analysts, Helene and Felix Deutsch, Edward and Grete Bibring (the first woman full professor at Harvard Medical School), Jenny and Robert Waelder, and Eduard Hitschmann, the Boston Psychoanalytic Society gained greatly in intellectual power and clinical experience.

A large percentage of the members of the Society participated widely in medical and social work training. Commenting on John Murray’s course on adolescence, which was open to social workers as well as to candidates, Hendrick noted that James Jackson Putnam taught in the founding year of the Smith School of Social Work. A little later he added this footnote:
The famous collaboration of Dr. Southard (of the Boston Psychopathic Hospital) and his Chief Social Worker, Miss Mary Jarrett led to the creation of the Smith School of Social Work, a school which contributed to the full development of analysis in Boston. From its inaugural year (1918), it had psychoanalysts on its teaching staff every year. And many graduates of Smith . . . were motivated during the late twenties and thirties to undertake personal analysis in even larger numbers than the young psychiatrists, to attend case seminars conducted by younger analysts, to develop more rapidly than dynamic psychiatrists the art of associative interviewing and the pedagogy of supervision (p. 59).

If you haven’t done so already, you may want to take a look at the collages of pictures from the Archives, on display at 15 Commonwealth Avenue, created by members of the Library Committee, who have brought some of them here for this evening’s festivities. You will also want to check out Sanford Gifford’s display of our history in the BPSI Members Room.

At the time of the 25th Anniversary celebration, great changes were stirring in psychoanalysis and in its environment. To some of these our members made great contributions, of which I shall name only a few. I count Helene Deutsch’s paper on the “As If Personality” a powerful step toward the understanding of borderline conditions. Edward Bibring opened an altogether innovative approach to depression, emphasizing the self-punishment for weakness and failure. Elizabeth Zetzel’s papers on the capacity to bear anxiety and depression opened further vistas on pre-oedipal disorders. John Murray added an important dimension to the understanding of narcissism, its relationship to the ego-ideal. Gregory Rochlin and a team of younger colleagues delineated the crucial importance of the development of object relations in the course of childhood.

A decade later, Arnold Modell, in the first of several important books, riveted our attention to “Object Love and Reality.” Paul Myerson, in addition to creating a marvellous department of psychiatry at Tufts, brought into focus the interplay of drives and object relations through his concept of childhood dialogues and the potential for analytic work. We are most fortunate in having had literally dozens of our members contributing to the literature of psychoanalysis.

Of course there have also been problems, internal and external. We owe much, I believe, to the revolution of the 1960s for loosening the unfortunate restrictions that prevented us from reading, for example, the works of Melanie Klein and her followers. Midway into our second 25 years, however, issues of power rather than of theoretical discord led to a split, and the formation of PINE, with many of the most senior training analysts. The leaders who remained soon promoted a vigorous group of younger colleagues, and BPSI flourished. By the time of our 50th Anniversary in 1983, a somewhat frail Professor Henry Murray, alone of the founders, attended the celebration.

Owing to the divergence between our early collaboration with social workers and psychologists, on the one hand, and our allegiance to medical hegemony, on the other, BPSI had failed to note the changing circumstances of training, injured many colleagues, and deprived us of important fellow analysts until we were rescued by the great lawsuit that opened the doors of our Institute to psychologists and social workers and other clinicians with final degrees, under the Gaskill Amendment of the Bylaws of ApsaA in 1986. BPSI had also badly missed the boat in the authoritarianism of its educational system that extended into the intellectual sphere.

In the last 25 years, however, our ship has made quite a course correction in those regards. This is no minor achievement. We have been sailing into the winds of change, and, I believe, we are gaining momentum. Major changes in understanding transference and countertransference, in our views on the analyst as participant, in understanding the development of the self, and in our views of female development, to name just a few, have radically altered psychoanalysis. From the early 1970s, unlike the period of the first 25 years, substantial diversity of evolving theoretical views has gained momentum in our membership. Starting from a psychoanalysis that regarded interpretation as its sole agent of therapeutic change in psychoanalysis, we have now come to see that every interpretation is an action and that a variety of actions contribute to the therapeutic effects of psychoanalysis.

Those extraordinary changes in our approach to psychoanalysis have been paralleled by changes in the mental health field in which we work, not all of them equally fortunate. Advances in psychopharmacology have been a two-edged sword, giving us far greater access to previously untreatable patients, but often leading others to disparage psychoanalysis. A vastly greater number of practicing analysts in the Boston area has not been accompanied by a corresponding increase in patients seeking psychoanalysis. I believe, these challenges must ultimately lead us to make improvements in practicing and teaching psychoanalysis. We certainly need not yield to a temptation to become dispirited. We must, instead continue to focus on what is essential in psychoanalysis, aware that it is ever-changing, but aware, also, of the unique contributions that psychoanalysis, with its focus on unconscious influences, can make to the welfare of individuals, families, and organizations — not only aware but proud.