THE LETTER 05 (Autumn 1995) pages 129-140
I would like to raise the question of whether we would be justified in considering the Studies on Hysteria as a writing about psychotherapy since firstly, the authors do not use the term ‘psychoanalysis’ but talk frequently about ‘psychotherapy’, and sometimes about ‘Psychological analysis’ or ‘psychical treatment’, – and since secondly, this publication from 1895 is without a doubt one of the oldest writings on psychotherapy as it is currently used so we cannot ignore it in any historical approach to the subject of psychotherapy. If we agree to this, then what demands are to be met by psychotherapists?
A first specification of this question can be formulated as follows: by what are Breuer and Freud possessed in their respective engagement with psychotherapy? By what desire is each motivated as psychotherapist? Are they driven by a desire to cure or by a desire to know? The starting point for their joint publication was the establishment of a rather simple fact, discovered quite by accident, namely the fact that in some cases a symptom can be ‘cured’ or can disappear as a result of the patient talking. Anna O. spoke…and before the eyes of a somewhat perplexed Breuer, she was cured of her hysterical symptoms.
Today, the central function of speaking in psychotherapy is widely recognised. A hundred years ago this certainly was not the case. Concerning the therapy of hysteria, for instance, one had at one’s disposal some ‘primitive’ instruments such as the Weir Mitchell rest-cure, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy and massage. The motto was: ‘If it doesn’t help, at least it doesn’t hurt!’ Starting from this statement and from some knowledge of the…