Freud’s Bar: IPA Outreach at Its Best

Second in a series:  What does the IPA Do For Me?


Many institutes and societies might be considering their outreach efforts for next year right now.  There is one program in particular that I highly recommend you look into.
This is an outreach project now known around the global psychoanalytic community as “Freud’s Bars.” These are events where young people meet analysts in an informal setting and discuss psychoanalysis over drinks or other refreshments. This turns out to be an effective-and even cool– way of raising interest in psychoanalysis, especially among university students.

Otto Fenichel became a member of the Vienna Society when he was 23 years old. Ernst Kris was a late bloomer-he didn’t start his analytic training until age 23. Alas, gone are the days when people began psychoanalytic training in their twenties.

The decrease of psychoanalytic candidates along with an aging membership in many Societies/Institutes in North America is an ongoing and mounting concern regarding the future of our discipline.

Now, we need innovative ways of reaching the young adult population which has the greatest interest in the complex workings of the human mind and serves as the pool of our future candidates, patients and psychoanalytic scholars. Freud’s Bar is a stellar example of a program that brings analysts back in contact with this population.

Fortunately, many IPA societies have developed effective outreach programs. The IPA has helped support their development and worked diligently to make information about model outreach programs available to all its members and societies.

College students are the primary target audience for the Freud’s Bar events. Regrettably, psychoanalysis is minimally present in universities and almost totally absent in psychology or psychiatry departments in this country. Yet college students are intensely interested in understanding the human mind. In fact, many analysts report that their own interest in psychoanalysis began with exposure to Freud’s writings in college.

David Clinton from the Swedish Society introduced the Freud’s Bar concept at the 2013 Prague IPA Congress, telling the audience about the success of that activity in Sweden.
Other societies picked up on this idea and organized local Freud Bar activities. One of the most successful programs is in Rome, sponsored by the Italian Psychoanalytic Society (SPI) which produced an excellent video in both Italian and English that showcases the project. Click here to view the English version.

I strongly recommend viewing the video if you do decide to create this kind of program as it contains how-to tips as well as a report on the Rome experience.  And if you are planning on taking a pass on this idea, my recommendation of giving it a viewing would be even stronger.

While the format varies a bit from city to city, the basic premise is to have a relaxed setting where young people feel comfortable, hear lively talks on topics of particular interest to them and can ask whatever questions they want.

In Rome, the discussions and informal lectures have been so successful that even high school students attend. The experiences of the societies that have started this informal activity have been very positive. People get to see analysts in an environment that is not stuffy and chat with them about questions they have about psychoanalysis.

The curiosity of the young people has been astonishing. They wanted to know about Freud’s ideas and if they are still pertinent in this day and age. They asked what it is like to be a psychoanalyst and what is entailed in getting psychoanalytic training.
The Freud’s Bar outreach program model has been successfully launched in cities from Toronto to Montevideo to Odessa.

The lesson of these activities is that we can and should reach out and establish personal contacts. We have to leave our offices and connect with people who are curious about psychoanalysis but have no opportunity to interact informally with analysts. Our historical attitudes of secrecy and avoiding community involvement have gone a long way toward the marginalization of psychoanalysis. We used to be part of the Zeitgeist; now we are an afterthought.

The IPA has collected information on many Freud’s Bar programs that you can access on the IPA website here. You can see entries for the programs in Berlin, Guadalajara, Brussels, London, Munich, Odessa, Rome, Toronto and Montevideo. Click on the country’s flag to view a description of the local program and related documents. You can also find more information in the IPA’s Outreach Resource Library in the Members Section “Freud’s Bar”.

For more information or advice on setting up your own Freud’s Bar in your city, contact the experienced organizers of the Rome program: Claudia Spadazzi  and Fabrizio Rocchetto

If we don’t leave our offices to interact with people who are curious about the human mind they will have misguided ideas about Freud and psychoanalysis and we will have only ourselves to blame.

The current IPA leadership is especially focused on this issue: exploring how can we develop strategies to go out in the community and inform people about psychoanalysis rather than waiting for them to find their way to us.

In an upcoming post, I’d like to tell you about another remarkably effective outreach program called the Summer University on Psychoanalysis that was developed by the German psychoanalytic society (DPV).




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