04/14/2024, 12:08, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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THE VIENNA PSYCHOANALYST wants to give not only already internationally established psychoanalysts, but also still unknown psychoanalysts the opportunity to post a self-written and not yet published article on the FrontPage of our online magazine!

Our Users then can leave comments, ask questions or discuss the articles in our forum. Our aim is to provide an international platform where for the first time anyone interested in psychoanalysis can exchange ideas on certain topics.
Articles are welcome in German and/ or English.

If you are interested, please send your article to

(For reasons of readability, the male form is used with personal names, however the female form is also always intended.)

„When it rains in Paris, it drizzles in Brussels”

Author: Sabrina Zehetner (TVP)


We put psychoanalysis in Belgium under the magnifying glass.

I would like to give my sincere thanks to Johan De Groef and the psychoanalytic community in Belgium.

The development of psychoanalysis in Belgium is closely tied to the country’s complex history and diversity. Sigmund Freud himself once visited Brussels on his way to Paris, and describes the cosmopolitan city as follows:

"Brussels was beautiful, a huge city, splendid buildings, the street inscriptions French and Flemish [...] I came to a steep hill, where a building stood, of a mass development and column splendor, [...] I really thought it was the royal palace, [...] It was the Palace of Justice. [...] Moving on, I soon came to the Rue Royale and now a find followed the others, the monument of Egmont and Horn was the most beautiful."

The institutional landscape

If one searches for psychoanalysis is Belgium, it is difficult not to turn one’s gaze towards the grand neighbor France and Lacan who overshadows – despite their popularity in Belgium - the names of Freud, Klein or Bion. The IPA (International Psychoanalytic Association), the Belgian School for Psychoanalysis, the New Lacanian School in Wallonia and Flanders, and the Espace analytique de Belgique are notable psychoanalytic organizations in Belgium. With the great number of splinter groups, however, it is difficult not to lose sight of the bigger picture. After World War 2, it was the French-speaking region in Belgium, Wallonia, that was – both geographically and academically – closely linked to Paris. To this day, Lacan has kept the upper hand in the Walloon region. In the 1950s, a significant number of Belgian psychology students decided to study abroad in Paris, and encountered Lacan and the structuralist movement. When they returned to Belgium in the 1960s to join the Belgian psychoanalytic organizations, they were met with rejection due to ideological disputes, and subsequently set up their own association - the Belgian School of Psychoanalysis (1965) that was later deemed not “lacanian” enough by some members, which almost triggered another separation. At first, the French language prevailed in both organizations. “When it rains in Paris, it drizzles in Brussels”, assesses the psychoanalyst and former president of the Belgian School for Psychoanalysis Johan De Groef. The secession within the Lacanian schools in France starting with Lacan’s split from the Société psychoanalytique de Paris soon reached Belgium (New Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis). In other psychoanalytic groups - in Ghent or within the Jungians (Belgian School for Jungian Psychoanalysis) - further secessions took place.  “I can’t think of any other therapeutic group that experienced so many secessions. This certainly bears relation to the personal development of each psychoanalyst. Psychoanalysis is also subversive in nature and struggles with institutionalization”, reckons Johan De Groef. There are, for example Lacanian groups, that maintain a critical distance from Lacan, and those that identify with him without compromise. Whenever the ideologies of each individual member of a psychoanalytic organization drift apart, the institutions soon follow – a phenomenon that is not unique to Belgium and can be observed across the globe, but without a doubt doesn’t contribute to a better understanding of psychoanalysis in the public discourse.


The linguistic situation in Belgium turns out to be even more complicated. The three official languages are French, Dutch and German but none of the psychoanalytic institutions in Belgium are trilingual. If psychoanalytic works don’t get published in Dutch or French, the language barrier is a significant obstacle that prevents people from reading Freud in the original language. Language, culture and history are closely interwoven - German is primarily associated with the 2nd World War and it’s safe to say that the German language doesn’t have a particularly good reputation in Belgium. The fact that Freud was an atheist and made sexuality a key topic posed a problem in regions heavily shaped by Catholicism. Since language is an integral part of the psychoanalytic setting, one shouldn’t underestimate its role as a communicator of psychoanalytic problems. Language influences both the analysis and the discourse surrounding it.


Even though psychoanalysis has always been located outside the academic landscape, some psychoanalysts used to teach at universities in fields such as philosophy or psychology. Professors the likes of Patrick de Neuter, psychoanalyst and co-founder of Espace analytique de Belgique, introduced psychoanalysis into the big universities as is rarely the case today. Still, KV Leuven offers a postgraduate program in psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and the University of Ghent’s “Psychoanalysis and Clinical Consulting“ institute adorns itself with popular psychoanalysts like Paul Verhaeghe.  Apart from a few exceptions, however, the psychoanalytic training is in the hands of the institutions, e.g. the Belgian Psychoanalytic Society Training Institute in Brussels. Despite the fact that young adults seem to be increasingly interested in the subject, the reputation of psychoanalysis which is deemed as expensive and inefficient, remains ambivalent. Johan De Groef sees internal as well as external factors that come into play: “Some psychoanalysts are responsible for this plethora of wrong stereotypes surrounding psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis has a communication problem.”

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