Why is psychoanalysis so popular in Argentina?
August 9, 2006 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Why is psychoanalysis so popular in Argentina?

I've heard that psychoanalysis is hugely popular in Argentina, not only among the upper-middle-class and educated -- as is the case in the U.S.A. -- but among people from all walks of life. Cabdrivers. Gauchos. Retirees. Name a category, they'll be on the couch.

Why is this? I'll admit that I don't know much about Argentina but it doesn't strike me as a morbid or lonely kind of place. So why is the talking cure so popular there? What are they trying to cure?
posted by jason's_planet to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It may not be in exactly the way you're thinking, but Argentina has been described as a lonely place.
posted by kittyprecious at 11:06 AM on August 9, 2006

Anecdotal answer: when I was a kid, in the 60s and 70s, it wasn't nearly as popular. It was something you wouldn't tell anyone; something to be ashamed of. If you went to a shrink, that meant you were crazy.

Then some major public figures admitted to seeking shrinks. As-far-as I know, the first was Woody Allen. More so than now, Allen was, back then, really cool to the intellectual crowd. So if HE did it -- and even boasted/joked about it -- it stopped being a bad thing. Amongst certain "New York" types, being neurotic is a badge of honor. Again, I trace this back to Allen. It really stems from a whole tradition of ethnic humor, but Allen made it popular.

Maybe via the normal process of middle-class people (and then working-class people) trying to mimic the upper classes (or maybe due to some other process), the shame factor gradually fell away from therapy altogether. Now therapists are a dime-a-dozen. They're all over daytime TV.

So the process by which therapy became popular as as simple -- and as complex/mysterious -- as the means by which a certain cola or shoe becomes popular.

Another factor: Feminism and changing roles for men in American society. When I was a kid, the "Marlboro Man" was in: the strong, silent type. Movie heroes were characters like Dirty Harry.

Then Feminism told us that our traditional male persona was bad (gross oversimplification, I know), and new male roles models started cropping up: Allen, for one, but many other "sensitive guy" types, too. Male stars started to cry in movies (as did male politicians on TV). So it's now okay to be male and show your feelings, discuss your feelings, etc.
posted by grumblebee at 11:13 AM on August 9, 2006

GADZOOKS I'M AN IDIOT. I read your "America" into your question, instead of "Argentina." Please feel free to flag my response. Or, maybe some of the same forces affect Argentina as they do America.
posted by grumblebee at 11:14 AM on August 9, 2006

I do not know if it is popular but assuming it is I would guess much of it might be attributed to the following factors:'
1) A medical reimbursement system that is different then ours. i.e., one where the patient does not have as much personal financial exposure--In contemporary American Healthcare only the lower upper class or upper class could realistically afford traditional psychoanalysis
2) Whether one likes it or not American professional schools and universities/colleges( in general) are the best in the world and psychoanalysis has not been considered or taught as a credible psychotherapeutic strategy since the mid sixties--I would guess, given the European influence in Argentina and their University systems that curriculum and Best Practices are a bit behind .
3) In a similar vein psychoanalysis, by any objective measure, is a very poor substitute(if a substitute at all) for cognitive behavioral techniques and/or state of the art medication. I am not sure how available those are in Argentina--besides science (CBT and Meds) does not have the romantic cache of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is more an ideology than a medical practice.

PS Please no replies pointing out the excellent universities in the other parts of the world. I fully acknowledge that there are excellent universities in many parts oif the world. I would also assert that the US is envied throughout the world for the quality and accessibility of its universities.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:50 AM on August 9, 2006

I know that there's a large community of Lacanian analysts in Argentina (as there are in most parts of the world outside of the US-about half of all analysts the world were trained as Lacanian). I don't know that this is the reason, but Lacanian analysis can be very different from the American version of Ego Psychology: it tends to be looser in terms of time, faster, and more focused on self-exploration rather than cure.

That said, rmhsinc is wrong about the efficacy of psychoanalysis as cure: all psychotherapies are about the same as all others in terms of effectiveness, CBT is no better than psychoanalysis is no better than EMDR is no better than medications. This has been conclusively demonstrated by meta-analysis, along with the overall general efficacy of psychotherapy (the effect size is .8!). [See Wampold, The Great Psychotherapy Debate] CBT is certainly quicker, but there may be some cultural issues at play that make speed less of a sought after ingredient of treatment.
posted by OmieWise at 12:11 PM on August 9, 2006

I can not argue with omiewise as I do not have the data in front of me but I will differ with him on the utility of psychoanalysis vs CBT in relation to its relative effectiveness in providing patients significant relief from symptoms in a timely and reliable manner--I don't have immediate access to "The Great Debate" but I would appreciate any links or additional info. My email is in my profile. As a matter of practice there is no serious consideration of psychoanalysis by the vast majority of those practicing in the field. I realize that does not mean omiewise is wrong. I will take a look at the data. Thanks Frank
posted by rmhsinc at 12:51 PM on August 9, 2006

(I appreciate all of your contributions but I'd really prefer not to get bogged down in a debate about psychoanalysis vs. CBT. )
posted by jason's_planet at 1:40 PM on August 9, 2006

but Lacanian analysis can be very different from the American version of Ego Psychology: it tends to be looser in terms of time, faster, and more focused on self-exploration rather than cure.

OK. So it's not so huge of a deal in that model. I'm thinking in terms of a years-long, emotionally wrenching, capital-T capital-C Talking Cure. And what you're describing sounds a little more like auditing a class at the community college.
posted by jason's_planet at 2:05 PM on August 9, 2006

Maybe it's cheaper there?
posted by footnote at 2:08 PM on August 9, 2006

This paper might help: Freud and the Spanish Language.

Short answer seems to be Freud's friendship with Spaniards and his familiarity with the language, which gave him exposure in Spain, which people brought to Argentina when they fled Spain in the 30s, and then for some reason a lot of psychotherapists ended up in Buenoes Aires and started a therapy culture there.

A number of articles seem to indicate this is only the case in Buenos Aires, though, and doesn't apply throughout the country.
posted by occhiblu at 4:02 PM on August 9, 2006

Googling psychoanalysis in Argentina actually turns up a lot of people addressing this issue, and indicating that Argentina does have an unusually open climate for therapy.
posted by occhiblu at 4:04 PM on August 9, 2006

I would also assert that the US is envied throughout the world for the quality and accessibility of its universities.

Well do you want an argument or don't you?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:27 PM on August 9, 2006


Ummm . . no. Not really. It was a simple, honest mistake. No harm done.

Googling psychoanalysis in Argentina actually turns up a lot of people addressing this issue

Google is good for some things but I was looking for a more street-level, anecdotal, personalized answer than Google typically provides. And I'm happy with the results.

Thanks to everyone who contributed!
posted by jason's_planet at 6:45 PM on August 9, 2006

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