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Brief History of Psychoanalysis in Ireland

Psychoanalysis Ireland


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 » Brief History of Psychoanalysis in Ireland

Apart from a small but important group of analysts in Monkstown, South County Dublin, working away in isolation for four decades, psychoanalysis only began to develop and broaden within Ireland during the 1980s, about a century after its inception by Freud. The disappointing realisation is that thus far psychoanalysis has had little cultural impact here. This may in part be due to the at one time formidable power of the Catholic Church on the one hand and the still powerful influence of organic psychiatry on the other. In a generation much has changed with the growth in therapies of all kinds. However, psychoanalysis - the “talking cure” which includes the unconscious - is still a rather marginal activity and has not yet reached the many people who could benefit from it.
Broadly speaking, there are three main groupings within the psychoanalytic movement in Ireland. These groups tend to function autonomously although some practitioners are members of more than one group. Two out of the three groups are affiliated to the Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP), which is an umbrella group representing the many different strands of psychotherapy (including psychoanalysis) in Ireland and abroad, via the European Association for Psychotherapy (EAP).
The first and oldest grouping is called The Irish Psycho-Analytic Association (IPAA). It was formed in 1942 by Jonathan Hanaghan, who had been analysed in England by Douglas Bryan - a leading member of the original London Psychoanalytic Society. Hanaghan developed an unorthodox, charismatic, radical Christian approach to psychoanalysis. He trained a small number of analysts here in Ireland who began working and helping people, often for very low fees. Their commitment to their work was very great, and every Saturday night Hanaghan gave an informal talk on psychoanalysis and the New Testament in his house in Monkstown. Anyone could attend and many did during the 1950s and 1960s. This became known locally as “the Monkstown Group” although there were never any formal arrangements or membership lists. The Group was well known for its radical bohemian ethos. Anyone, analysts, patients, trainees and their friends, could attend and participate in the discussion after the talk, over a cup of tea, sandwiches and cakes that people donated. Hanaghan spoke at every meeting, claiming in prophetic terms a profound link between Freud and Jesus. He regarded psychoanalysis as a form of mental and spiritual healing: the analyst was more than a technician, he was a healer. Hanaghan railed against the institutional churches as well as what he regarded as academic atheistic psychoanalysis. He developed a considerable following which continued up until his death in 1967. The analysts he trained were well read in Freud, but the devotional adherence to Hanaghan’s teachings, especially in the decade after his death, became problematic for some, particularly younger aspiring analysts who felt blocked by the founding analysts. Although Hanaghan published a few books (Runa Press) and some of his Saturday night talks and lectures to training analysts were typed-up, he never published in any psychoanalytic journals or exchanged ideas with the wider psychoanalytic world outside Ireland, preferring transmission by word of mouth. He received high praise from Anna Freud, who said, ‘the mantle of my father’s work has fallen on your shoulders.’
More recently in 1999, the IPAA became incorporated and has an ongoing study group which attracts new members. It is now also a member of the ICP’s psychoanalytic section. Although it remains the smallest of the three psychoanalytic groups within ICP, it has developed links with the Northern Ireland Institute for Human Relations (NIIHR) and with the Department of Sociology in UCD.
A new direction for psychoanalysis emerged in the early 1980s. Study groups formed to read Freud, Melanie Klein, Winnicott and others, that by-passed the Monkstown orthodoxy. Guest analysts were invited from abroad, most notably, Masud Khan, Hanna Segal and R.D. Laing. Younger analysts from Monkstown together with other analysts who had trained abroad eventually formed the Irish Forum for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (IFPP) in 1986, which was to distance itself completely from the Monkstown analysts. The remaining senior Monkstown analysts were not invited, nor did they seek to join the new group. The Forum was an umbrella grouping for those therapists with broadly psychoanalytically-oriented trainings, open to membership in the 32 counties and abroad, to discuss and develop psychoanalytic ideas and clinical approaches. For a number of years a journal was published. There were very well attended clinical meetings and public lectures series. This grouping maintained an eclectic mix of psychoanalytic traditions for a number of years. In August 1994, the IFPP became a registered company, in accordance with developments elsewhere, and created a register of practitioners with about 40 members. A number of trainings were established including one in child and adolescent work and one in group analysis. Those analysts specialising in working with children and adolescents went on to establish the Irish Forum for Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy (IFCAPP), whilst those involved in group psychoanalysis founded the Irish Group Analytic Society (IGAS).
The IFPP became affiliated to the Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP) when this latter was founded and for many years IFPP was the only body officially representing psychoanalysis in Ireland.
However, a number of analysts within the IFPP were from the beginning interested in the work of the revolutionary French analyst, Jacques Lacan, who over more than three decades worked to establish psychoanalysis on firm linguistic foundations and on what he stressed was a “return to Freud,” especially Freud’s early writings. In keeping with Lacan’s decisive break with what he always dismissed as “ego-psychology,” this new group, believing itself to be the true heirs to Freud’s legacy, largely turned its back on the IFPP. This was in keeping with Lacanians worldwide who viewed the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) as bureaucratic and revisionist. This group devoted considerable energy to the study of the very difficult Lacanian Seminars under the guidance of Cormac Gallagher. He had initially trained in psychoanalysis in Paris and returned to Dublin to found the School of Psychotherapy at St Vincent’s University Hospital, along with Prof. Michael Fitzgerald and Prof. Noel Walshe. He began the work of translating into English the bulk of Lacan’s work. Later, as director of the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies at L.S.B. (now Dublin Business School), Cormac Gallagher initiated the first primary degree in psychoanalysis in the English speaking world.
Thus a new grouping began to establish itself in the early 1990s which would eventually become the Association for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy in Ireland (APPI). This group would forge connections with Lacanian analysts in Europe who would come regularly to Dublin to give clinical seminars. An annual congress has been held by APPI each November since 1994, with papers presented on Lacanian psychoanalysis by analysts from Ireland and abroad. A Lacanian journal, THE LETTER, which appears three times a year, was also established in 1994. APPI, unlike the other psychoanalytic groups, has not affiliated to ICP. It takes the position that the interests of its members and the practice of psychoanalysis in Ireland are best served by dealing with Government Services directly rather than leaving this work to an umbrella organisation such as ICP.
In July of this year, a number of psychoanalysts, dissatisfied with the constraints imposed by an increasing adherence to bureaucracy and unquestioning orthodoxy, decided to establish the

College of Psychoanalysts in Ireland (CPI).

The aim of this most recent development in psychoanalysis in Ireland is, initially, to raise awareness of psychoanalysis by providing a website where members of the public may learn about the practice and theory of psychoanalysis, and to provide new and additional opportunities for members to exchange views at clinical and public seminars arranged around topics of psychoanalytic interest. CPI members come from each of the organisations outlined above, and as such may have various psychoanalytic formations. In a move to embrace and recognise the work of all pioneers of the psychoanalytic movement CPI will provide an energetic forum which for the first time in Ireland invites a psychoanalytic engagement from those of different formations to work in a collegiate manner in order to raise awareness of psychoanalysis in this country.
A comprehensive history of psychoanalysis in Ireland is waiting to be written. In the meantime, if you would like to add to our all too brief history, or suggest amendments, please submit your text


In addition, we are at present in the process of assembling a small on-line archive of published texts pertaining to the history of psychoanalysis in Ireland. If you have material which you think should be included in this archive, please submit it


. Similarly, if your psychoanalytic group or association wishes to submit a history for inclusion on this site, please submit the text


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