oa Journal of Psychology in Africa - Psychoanalysis in Africa: a background paper for discussion

Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1433-0237



Until the middle of the 20th century European colonialism determined all developments in Africa. During the post-colonial period, and under predominantly authoritarian or dictatorial governments psychoanalysis developed only sporadically, except in South Africa. There is no detailed account of the history and current status of psychoanalysis on the continent. Traces, however, can be found within the context of colonial history and its effects. Ethnopsychoanalysis can be seen as a major contribution to psychoanalytic research in Africa. And in the last decade of this century we find several encouraging indications of relevance for future of psychoanalysis in Africa: (1) A number of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who trained in Euro-North America and have now been practicing psychotherapy in Africa for years have adopted psychoanalysis in theory and practice; (2) the rapid societal change and urbanization witnessed in African societies seems to create a need for western forms of psychotherapy including psychoanalysis; (3) psychoanalysis is recognized and taught in several university departments of psychology, clinical psychology, and psychiatry; and (4) the re-foundation of psychoanalytic study in South Africa. Psychoanalysts and their professional associations have shown little interested in psychoanalytic research and training in Africa, a continent containing perhaps the most culturally diverse societies and types of human relations on the globe.

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