From the Couch

The case history has become a standard method of transmitting psychoanalytical knowledge. Freud wrote a number of now famous case histories and his successors modelled themselves upon him, as if to emphasize that their theories were rooted in experience. At one time the International Journal of Psychoanalysis separated out articles lacking clinical material which were published in a separate journal, termed the Review, although the two have now been combined again. But the case history, written by the analyst, is only one side of the story. Where is the voice of the patient?

Accounts of the experience and treatment of madness written by the madmen exist, (one of the most famous perhaps being the Schreber case), but are not common. It is also rare for analysands to publish accounts of their analyses.

Without having to consider which version is more ‘true’ (nothing passed through the human mind is completely free from error), it remains instructive to see the experience of treatment from two different points of view. A kind of binocular vision.

This is the thinking behind THERIP's creation of a section of the website devoted to collecting people's accounts, past and present, of analysis and/or psychotherapy, which we have called FROM THE COUCH. We include also accounts from relatives.

THERIP members wishing to contribute to the project can do so, using the 'add article' function; non-members are most welcome to participate by sending contributions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (contributions are rewarded with short-term honorary membership).

            My daughter showed me the article by Patricia Alderman 'One Simple Thing' (The Psychoanalysis Newsletter, Winter 1996). I could identify with much of what she wrote. If you still include articles from patients' family or friends maybe you might like to consider this article about my experience of psychotherapy.

 

My daughter dropped out of College when she was 20. She came home at the Easter holidays and announced that she did not want to return the following term and that since there was no way she could take exams, she might as well leave before she was thrown out.

 

My husband and I had always believed we had a good relationship with our daughter. She had been a happy teenager who had done well at school and loved riding her pony and bringing her friends round to the house. We had not experienced any problem years with her. She had always been a source of great pleasure to us both.

 From the Other Side of the Couch

To repeat the introduction, without having to consider which is more ‘true’, it remains instructive to see the experience of treatment from two different points of view. It is in this spirit that I offer some remembered fragments from my analyses.

I say ‘fragments’ advisedly. I have had four analyses with four distinguished analysts (Rickman, Gillespie, Bion, Segal), each at one time President of the British Society. Although many patients, even analysts themselves, undertake a second analysis (Derrida’s la tranche), usually from a different ‘school’, four bites of the cherry is unusual and it has often been suggested to me that I should write about my experiences. ‘Yes, yes,’ I reply, ‘I am thinking about it, when I can find time.’ But that is not the reason. I have had more than 25 years of analysis, ending some 30 years ago, 50 minute sessions 5 times a week, altogether thousands of hours. But what I recall from my analyses can be counted on my fingers.

FROM THE PATIENT'S PERSPECTIVE

My girlfriend wanted me to have psychotherapy. We argued too much about everything and my attitudes irritated her immensely. I was also irritable most of the time.
For around 6 months she kept pushing me to have therapy; sometimes this was after an argument; sometimes the argument was as a consequence of her nagging me about therapy and me exploding.
It came to a point where she said she could not continue in the relationship with me if I did not get some psychotherapy.
I eventually gave in and agreed to consult a psychotherapist. I believed then it was for our relationship. I would have preferred to go to some form of relationship counselling and would even have preferred to go to some family or couple therapy together.
My girlfriend had had some psychotherapy herself. She is divorced and has 2 teenage children living with her. She had some therapy for a few months just after the breakup of her marriage and thought it had helped her. I found it irritating that she tended to take the view that she had 'done therapy ' and 'got herself sorted out'.
It was her opinion that it was important for the relationship that I did the same. She  often said it was not the relationship that was the problem but that I was the  problem . I would always retaliate angrily that it was the relationship where the problem lay and that it was obvious to anyone that a relationship involves two people .
She remained adamant that I was the one who had to sort himself out. As the relationship was deteriorating I decided to look for a psychotherapist. I got hold of some names and telephone numbers: one through the doctor; one from a fairly local clinic and one through personal recommendation. I chose the latter as I felt more comfortable going to someone who had apparently helped somebody I know.
I remained (stubbornly, as my girlfriend would say,) convinced that, although I probably had a few problems, it was really the relationship that needed help.
At the first appointment I remember, as well as being surprised that I had turned up, trying to explain to the therapist that I was there to try to do something about the relationship. I felt foolish and sort of exposed. I also felt shy and embarrassed.
I was afraid I was blushing. I was a bit in awe of her. She seemed clinical and rather reserved .