The Analytic Observer

Newsletter of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Society

Chicago Psychoanalytic Society | December 1997 Newsletter


Psychoanalysis and Public Relations:

Some Clarification

by Mark Smaller, Ph.D.

Chair, Public Relations Committee

I recently had a very satisfying experience with a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times. He met me for breakfast the Sunday morning of the recent Self Psychology Conference. We had contacted various media people about the conference, especially after registration had closed because of the response of over 700 people attending. I had suggested to the media that self psychology grew out of the "Chicago School" of psychoanalysis, not unlike the Chicago "school" of architecture and pizza. The reporter and I talked for over an hour about self psychology, Heinz Kohut and the Institute.

This reporter was genuinely interested, wanted to know the difference between self psychology and traditional analysis. He also commented that there was nothing in the Sun-Times files about the Institute and the Society other than obituaries over the years. Although he knew that analysts were occasionally interviewed for stories, nothing about psychoanalysis for over twenty years appeared in the paper. He thought people were no longer interested or helped by analysis and he too was familiar with the Freud "bashing" that goes on in the media.

The next day he wrote a one page article about the conference, about Kohut and self psychology, based upon what he had carefully and thoughtfully heard at our breakfast. The article (Sun-Times, 11/ 17/97) appeared on the front page of the Metro Section and portrayed to its readers that psychoanalysis was alive and well and thriving. The article described the development of self psychology as an outgrowth of Kohut's and other's concerns that traditional analysis was not helping certain kinds of people and that as a helping profession we were concerned about this. Kohut and his courage, both regarding his new ideas and facing his illness, were well documented.

The goal of our public relations efforts is NOT "to fill the empty hours of our members," as one of our members wrote in the last Observer. The goal is to educate the public, other mental health professionals about what it is that we do, what we can offer of our knowledge about people, about what motivates and drives people, what helps people with their problems. We have knowledge useful in dealing with current problems of violence, self-destructive behavior in society, problems of children and families, problems of leadership and group behavior.

The reason that "few people know what psychoanalysis is or even fewer care," as was described in a recent letter, is exactly the point. If our profession is to survive and our knowledge propagated all must take the opportunity educate the community whenever the opportunity presents itself. The attitude that such efforts are "ill advised" is the attitude of the past that has almost killed psychoanalysis. Our recent efforts at public relations, not only through the media be through our outreach efforts and our genuine interest in bringing new people into our field will insure that our expertise will continue to flourish and our work become more effective in relieving the suffering of our patients. That is what makes this an exciting time to be a psychoanalyst.

Public Relations starts with each of us being willing to relate publicly to others about what it is that we do. Those days of isolation and professional aloofness and arrogance are over. Thank goodness. It's on to the 21st century of psychoanalysis.


Chicago Psychoanalytic Society | December 1997 Newsletter