Switzerland was the first country, and Zurich and Geneva the first cities outside of Vienna, where psychoanalysis found a corresponding echo. From Zurich it went on to find its way into academic psychiatry, which developed modern psychodynamic psychiatry. As elsewhere, German-speaking Switzerland had its rifts and defections. Some particularities of the country helped contribute to this evolution: Switzerland is a federation of small states (cantons) professing different religions, speaking different languages, and asserting their own autonomy. Individualism and particularities, alongside tendencies toward pragmatic egalitarianism, are part of the national tradition. There are also great class differences.
The two psychiatrists from Freud's generation who paved the way for the introduction of psychoanalysis in Switzerland represent this tradition in a particular manner: Auguste Forel (1848-1931), a French-speaking Swiss who directed the Burghölzli university asylum in Zurich, and his successor from 1898, Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939). They were both close to the patients through daily contact and were socially very committed. Forel devoted a lot of time to hypnosis and sexual education, but kept his distance from psychoanalysis, while Bleuler greeted Freud's book on aphasia (1891b) with enthusiasm and recognized the global significance of Studies on Hysteria (1895d). "My personal experience with schizophrenics confirmed Freud is right, much to my surprise," he wrote in 1910, when successfully defending psychoanalysis against attacks from every quarter. His book on schizophrenia (1911) is influenced by psychoanalysis and in 1901 he encouraged his new assistant, Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), to study The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), which had just been published, and to apply the "test of free association" to patients suffering from dementia praecox. Psychoanalysis thus acquired new certainties and Jung met Freud in 1907. Led by Jung, a group of his young colleagues, among them Franz Riklin, Alphonse Maeder, Johann Jakob Honegger, and Ludwig Binswanger, were fired with enthusiasm for psychoanalysis. "The nucleus of the small band who were fighting for the recognition of analysis," as Freud described it (1914d), consisted of foreigners who were attracted by the worldwide reputation of Bleuler's clinic and who came there to train. This was the case of Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, Hermann Nunberg, Johan H. W. Van Ophuijsen, Abraham A. Brill, Sabina Spielrein, and many more. The essential contribution of the Zurich group consisted of its in-depth research into the psychoses. In Jung, Freud found an expert partner who was gifted with a creative imagination and interested in the history of cultures and religions. The publication of the five volumes of the Jahrbuch between 1909 and 1913, the creation of a psychoanalytic association in Zurich in 1907 and its transformation into a regional group of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), founded in 1910, were very largely due to Jung's exuberant activity.
In 1908 the Zurich pastor Oskar Pfister discovered the extent to which psychoanalysis could contribute to spiritual directorship and teaching. He became a zealous propagator, especially in teaching circles, for example with Ernst Schneider, director of a seminary, and his student Hans Zulliger in Bern, whereas theologian Paul Häberlin, a pedagogue and an influential professor of philosophy, came into contact with psychoanalysis through Ludwig Binswanger.
This whole flowering was quickly swept away by the split between Jung and Freud in 1913, when the majority of the Swiss followed Jung. The theoretical differences centered around Jung's "dilution" of the theory of the libido, but the difficulty of the Swiss in separating themselves from the outside world through principles also had a role to play in it. "Jung was Freud's great disciple who tried by diplomatic means to reconcile the world to psychoanalysis," as L. Marcuse wrote with much insight (1956).
The Swiss Psychoanalytic Society (SGPsa) was founded in Zurich on March 21, 1919, and still exists to this day. Pioneering member Oskar Pfister worked there with younger colleagues such as Emil Oberholzer and his wife Mira Gincburg, Hermann Rorschach, Hans Zulliger, and many more. What changed was the growing professionalism; candidates were progressively required to have really experienced analysis. Eminent members like Ernst Blum (Bern), Philipp Sarasin (Basel), Henri Flournoy, Charles Odier, Raymond de Saussure (Geneva), and the two Oberholzers (Zurich) had been analyzed by Freud himself. This fact had a stabilizing and unifying influence until the middle of the twentieth century. But conflict grew rapidly; it was triggered by technical questions, such as short analyses without elaboration of the transference and resistance, a technique introduced by Oskar Pfister in the heroic period.
Emil Oberholzer, the president, hit on a summary solution in 1928 by founding a new society, the Schweizerische ztegesellschaft für Psychoanalyse (Swiss Medical Society for Psychoanalysis), from which "lay" members, like Oskar Pfister, were automatically excluded, but also Zulliger. The IPA did not recognize his group and after a few years it had no more than a token existence.
With fewer members (forty members in 1927, five of them residents of French-speaking Switzerland, thirty-three members in 1929) the SGPsa enjoyed a peaceful existence until 1961 under the judicious presidency of Philipp Sarasin. Training requirements and conditions of membership had become stricter. The SGPsa did not have many representation activities, but some of its members were known for their publications and local actions that helped spread psychoanalysis. Basel became particularly important when Heinrich Meng moved there from Frankfurt and was appointed professor of "psychic hygiene" at the university. In a collection devoted to this subject he published not only his own works, but also important works by members of the SGPsa, for example, Rudolf Brun's General Treatise on the Neuroses in 1942 and, in 1944, Trieb und Kultur (Instinct and Culture) by Hans Christoffel, a native of Basel. This collection enabled the representatives of the different trends in the intense intellectual life of Basel to familiarize themselves with the treasures of psychoanalytic thought. The first edition of Oskar Pfister's work, Das Christentum und die Angst (Christianity and Fear) appeared in 1944.
A new split appeared after World War II with the creation of "Daseinsanalyse" ("existential analysis"; Ludwig Binswanger and Maeder Boss), an attempt to base psychoanalysis on the philosophy of Husserl and Heidegger. A few analysts, who generally remained true to Freud, found elements there, for example, Gustav Bally and Ernst Blum. Rudolf Brun, of Zurich, violently opposed his strictly biological approach to this trend. But the real split took place in Germany with Alexander Mitscherlich in relation to a clinical case (1950).
In the meantime, the next generation, the "descendants of Freud," were actively engaged with two of Brun's students: Paul Parin (born in 1916) and Fritz Morgenthaler (1919-1984). Parin (1949) appealed for greater consideration for the social criticism function of psychoanalysis, and Morgenthaler (1951) illustrated by means of a case history his virtuosity at picking up on unconscious intentions. Both of them represented a renewal of analytic thinking with the same unusual intensity and radicalism that we can also detect in their work in ethnopsychoanalysis (1963, 1971). For two decades they represented the center of gravity of psychoanalysis in German-speaking Switzerland. They were relentless guardians of the SGPsa training institute until, in the wake of May 1968, they demanded greater participation for candidates at the Zurich seminar of the SGPsa. As a result of the activism of extreme-left candidates this led, after long discussions in 1977, to the secession of the Zurich Psychoanalytic Seminar (PSZ), which declared itself autonomous and in which members became psychoanalysts upon their own authorization. For this reason, and also because an eminent group of analysts, primarily Parin and Morgenthaler, declared themselves in sympathy with the PSZ, there was a massive influx of analysts (about eight hundred participants in the eighties with a delegation at Bern and branches in Germany [cf. Luzifer-Amor, 1993]).
The SGPsa had to be reconstituted in 1977 as the Freud-Institut Zürich. The situation stabilized again, and the Basel and Bern groups, which were growing in importance, played a major role in this. One consequence of the crisis, however, is that psychoanalysis in Switzerland is, as of 2004, mainly concentrated in the French-speaking part of the country. As of 2003 lists members in the SGPsa. In 2004 there were 45 training analysts who bore the main responsibility for passing psychoanalysis along to Swiss students. Twenty-seven of them worked in Francophone Switzerland (including a few in the Italian-speaking parts); 18 worked in the German-speaking areas.
Bleuler, Eugen (1910). Die psychoanalyse Freuds. Verteidigung und kritische Bemerkungen. Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, 2, 623-730.
Meerwein, Fritz (1979). Reflexionen zur geschichte der Schweizerischen gesellschaft für psychoanalyse in der deutschen Schweiz. (With French translation: Réflexions sur l'histoire de la Société suisse de psychanalyse en Suisse alémanique). Bulletin de la Société suisse de psychanalySE, 9, 25-40.
Moser, Alexander (1992). Psychoanalysis in Switzerland. In Paul Kutter (Ed.), Psychoanalysis international, a guide to psychoanalysis throughout the world (Vol. 1, Europe). Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog.
Walser, Hans H. (1976). Psychoanalyse in der Schweiz. In D. Eicke (Ed.): Die psychologie des 20. jahrhunderts (Vol. 2, pp. 1192-1218) Zürich: Kindler.
Did this raise a question for you?