Issue date: 02 April 2004

ISSUE DATE: 02/04/04

Psychoanalysis has traditionally been associated with images of couch therapy where patients are encouraged to talk about their anxieties or illness to a professional consultant. However in recent years therapy culture has altered dramatically with counselling being offered to people in an increasing range of scenarios. Instances where this might apply includes counselling in the workplace following redundancy and after experience of a traumatic event like a rail crash or terrorist attack.

Professor Anthony Elliott, Director of the Centre for Critical Theory in the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences at the University of the West of England, has won a British Academy grant to study how professionals are dealing with the increase in circumstances when people seek therapy. His study is entitled ‘The ideologies of psychoanalysis; reassessing Freudian and post Freudian theories in critical culture studies.’

The project will involve interviews with prominent psychoanalysts in the UK, USA, France and Australia and will look at the competing psychoanalytic theories as used in clinical settings for what these approaches have to contribute to the analysis of identity in the social sciences and the humanities more generally.

Professor Anthony Elliott said, “Institutions in the public realm are penalised if they do not offer up therapy. Given that psychoanalysis was never designed to cope with a growing list of areas where counselling is offered I am interested to learn if anything has been lost in translating theories used by psychoanalysts to cope with what has become a growth ‘industry’. I’m also very interested to relate this to the trend for public confessionals by famous people who use the media to play out crisis in their private lives.”


Editor’s notes

Anthony Elliott is Director of the Centre for Critical Theory and |Research Professor of Social and Political Theory at the University of the West of England. Born in Australia and educated at Cambridge University, he is a frequent contributor to newspapers and radio programmes around the world. His writings have been translated into over 10 languages and among his books include: The Mourning of John Lennon (1999), Social Theory and Psychoanalysis in Transition (1999), Concepts of the Self (2001), Psychoanalytic Theory: An Introduction (2002), Critical Visions (2003), Social Theory Since Freud (2004) and Subject to Ourselves (2004). He is the editor of The Blackwell Reader in Contemporary Social Theory (1999), and the co-editor of Profiles in Contemporary Social Theory (2001) and Key Contemporary Social Theorists (2003). He is currently writing, with American sociologist Charles Lemert, a full-scale study of “the new individualism” in conditions of globalization.

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