French psychoanalysts mad over reform

14th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - The closed and complex world of French psychoanalysis is in trauma as a result of a government attempt to step up regulation of the profession, prey - according to critics - to growing numbers of quacks and charlatans.

PARIS, Jan 13 (AFP) - The closed and complex world of French psychoanalysis is in trauma as a result of a government attempt to step up regulation of the profession, prey - according to critics - to growing numbers of quacks and charlatans.

A health bill proposing to set up a national register of analysts and psychotherapists has provoked such an uproar among the heirs of Freud and Lacan that the text has been temporarily withdrawn - though the government insists a measure of control remains necessary.

"If - heaven forfend - this law were to be voted through, we would have no choice but to enter the path of civil disobedience," said Jacques-Alain Miller, son-in-law of the late theoretician Jacques Lacan and founder of the School of the Freudian Cause.

A public meeting in Paris on Saturday drew several hundred opponents of the government's proposals, including former education minister Jack Lang and star writer-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who said the bill would spell the end of Freudian analysis.

"When they speak of 'professionalising' people whose business is human misery; when they speak of 'evaluating' needs and results; when they try to appoint 'super-prefects' of the soul, grand inquisitors of human sadness - it is to hard not to agree that psychoanalysis is in the firing line," Levy said.

France has around 6,000 psychoanalysts - divided into often competing intellectual camps - and betwen 20,000 and 30,000 psychotherapists, who conduct face-to-face sessions with clients as opposed to the couch therapy favoured by Freudians and Lacanians.

Critics say the absence of regulation and a growing demand for therapy of all kinds has led to a proliferation of astrologers, mystics and con-artists - and they are demanding that the public be protected by a system of recognised qualifications.

But Lacan, who died in 1981, said that the "analyst's only authority is his own," and his followers believe the state has no business interfering in the mysteries of the id and the unconscious.

In a faction-ridden climate, many psychoanalysts also see the government's initiative as an attempt by their arch-enemies the psychiatrists - hospital-based doctors who prescribe drugs for treating mental illness - to marginalise their work.

"We are beginning to see the veiled faces and masks of Big Brother," warned Miller on the international Internet site dedicated to Lacan and his work, blaming a conspiracy of "neo-hygienists" for taking over at the ministry of health.

© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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