Psychoanalysis in Sweden


  • Per Magnus Johansson



history of psychoanalysis, Sweden, Strindberg, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan


Some of the ideas of Sigmund Freud were preceded in a literary form by the Swedish writer August Strindberg in the late 19th century. Psychoanalysis itself was introduced to Sweden about a decade into the 20th century by two rivalling pioneers, the doctors Emanuel af Geijerstam and Poul Bjerre. After a slow start, the Danish-Norwegian Psychoanalytical Society and the Finnish-Swedish Psychoanalytical Society were formed in 1934 in Stockholm. The same year, Ericastiftelsen [The Erica Foundation], a psychotherapeutic clinic for children, was founded by Hanna Bratt. Five years later, in 1939, also in Stockholm, the organization that was to become St. Lukasstiftelsen [The Saint Luke’s Foundation] was founded. It has been, and still is, an association that has trained psychodynamic psychotherapists, with a focus on existential, religious and philosophical questions. Today, St. Luke’s tries to be up-dated from an academic standpoint. During the Second World War, several important psychoanalysts came to Sweden, for example René de Monchy, Lajos and Edith Székely, and Stefi Pedersen. Few Swedes have contributed to the international psychoanalytic literature. However, Ola Andersson’s doctoral dissertation (“Studies in the Prehistory of Psychoanalysis,” 1962) and the historian Gunnar Brandell’s essay (“Freud, a Man of His Century,” 1961) have had an international impact. In the last two decades, an authorized and carefully edited translation of Freud’s collected works has been published by Natur och Kultur, and the history of psychoanalysis in Sweden has been written at the University of Gothenburg. Since 1990, several Stockholm based Swedish psychoanalysts have published articles in the journal Divan about the relationship between psychoanalysis and culture. As a result of a recent interest in the work of Jacques Lacan, and French psychoanalysis, philosophy and literature, the journal Psykoanalytisk Tid/Skrift was founded in 2002, in Gothenburg. Since 2011 the journal is called Arche. The largest organized group of psychoanalysts in Sweden today is the Swedish Psychoanalytical Association (SPAF), which has about 225 members. Since 2008, it no longer has the right to license psychotherapists, a situation that reflects the position of psychoanalysis outside the mainstream of psychiatric health services and academic psychology. Despite the criticism of Freud’s thinking from biologically and cognitively oriented theoretical standpoints, the interest in psychoanalysis endures, which can be considered a promising and intriguing inconsistency.


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Johansson, P. M. (2015). Psychoanalysis in Sweden. Journal für Psychoanalyse, (56).