'Paranoid' therapists see French plot to drive out Freud

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The Independent Online

Are French psychoanalysts paranoid? Is the French state displaying anally retentive symptoms by trying to over-regulate the many, confusing - and mutually detesting - branches of the psychiatric profession?

A puzzling psycho-drama is raging in France over an apparently simple proposal by a member of parliament to regulate the country's sprawling industry of the mind.

There are an estimated 40,000 mental practitioners in France. They range from medical doctors (psychiatrists), to distinguished followers of Freud and his successors (psychoanalysts), to students of behaviour (psychologists). But they also include a vast and vague legion of psychotherapists, some well respected, some with doubtful qualifications, some with none.

A government deputy, Bernard Accoyer, pushed through an amendment to a Health bill in October calling for a government-controlled system for the registration and approval of anyone offering psychiatric treatment. Some saw this as part of a plot by the medical men to impose rules on the industry which would "drive Freud out of France".

The much larger ranks of therapists are in two minds. Some also see a plot by the medical establishments; others say they would welcome clear rules and classifications.

Efforts were being made last night in the Sénat (the upper house) to amend M. Accoyer's amendment. Psychoanalysts should, instead, be encouraged to draw up their own register.

Jacques-Alain Miller, the son-in-law of the great post-Freudian thinker, Jacques Lacan, has rejected even this proposal. "We are not plumbers," he said. As Lacan once said: "An analyst can only be approved by himself."