THE DEVELOPMENT OF PSYCHOANALYSIS IN CROATIA AND 
CROATIAN PSYCHOANALYTICAL PROVISIONAL SOCIETY


Old Beginnings

The story of the Croatian Psychoanalytical (provisional) Society began in Vienna somewhere between 1922 and 1924, when the young physician Stjepan Betlheim, born in Zagreb in 1898, was on his psychiatry residency at the Wagner Jauregg Clinic where he met his mentor and first analyst Paul Schilder, who introduced him to Freud himself, and where he met also another young doctor and the future President of IPA – Heinz Hartmann. Betlheim started his psychoanalytic  training in autumn 1925 in Vienna, and from autumn 1926 until the end of 1927 he underwent a second analysis with Sandor Rado in Berlin. His supervisors were Helene Deutsch in Vienna and Karen Hornay in Berlin. At the beginning of 1928, Betlheim finished his training and became the associate member of the Viennese Psychoanalytical Society. During his days in training, together with Hartmann he published the paper “About parapraxes in Korsakow's psychosis” cited by Freud in one of the later editions of The Interpretation of Dreams. Having finished training, he returned to Zagreb and worked as psychiatrist, psychotherapist and psychoanalyst in private practice and at the hospital. He gave the first public lectures on psychoanalysis in Croatia in the building on Marulic Square 37 where he had his first analytic practice, creating great interest for psychoanalysis in the intellectual circles of Zagreb in the interwar period. At the beginning of 1941 and the establishment of the so-called “Independent state of Croatia,” which was in fact a quisling regime, in accordance with the racial laws, Betlheim lost his job and moved to Bosnia with his family, wife Marie Luise and young daughter Ruth, where he joined partisans in 1943 as a physician. After the end of WW2, he returned to Zagreb in 1946 as a demobilised officer of Yugoslav army, and began his academic career at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Zagreb, as Professor of Psychiatry, founder of medical psychology, and pioneer of psychotherapy in the former Yugoslavia. In 1952 he became the first and only direct member of IPA in Yugoslavia. His small psychotherapy unit, founded in 1952 at the Psychiatric Clinic of the Clinical Hospital Centre Zagreb, became the University Centre for Mental Health in 1969 (shortly before his death in 1970), and was later renamed the University Clinic for Psychological Medicine, a cradle for psychoanalytic psychotherapy in Yugoslavia, and later, in the 1990s, a seminal point for the development of our Society. Betlheim did training analyses with his pupils and collaborators: prof. dr. Duška Blažević, prof. dr. Maja Beck-Dvoržak, Dr Neda Bucan and, finally, prof.dr. Eduard Klain. Dr Klain and Dr. Cividini Stranić, together with Dr Staniša Nikolic who was in analysis at the Paris Psychoanalytical Society, became the parental generation who trained us, the third generation of psychoanalysts in our Society, Betlheim's “grandsons and granddaughters.”
Betlheim intended to establish a Psychoanalytical Study Group even back in 1950s, but the political situation in the former state was not favourable enough, and later in the 1970s, after his death, at the second attempt the IPA did not show much enthusiasm to support it. We had to wait until the Fall of Communism in the Eastern Europe in 1989 and the EPF's move to the East, led by Han Groen Prakken and Eero Rechardt. We did, however, wait a bit longer for the establishment of the Study Group, mainly because of the war in Croatia during the first half of the 1990s.

New beginnings

Professor Eduard Klain, together with the late Professors Staniša Nikolić and Eugenia Cividini Stranić, was the key figure in the development of psychoanalysis during this decade. They initiated the training analyses with our generation. In that period, we received substantial help from the Italian Psychoanalytical Society (SPI), especially from Centro Veneto – please, let me be forgiven for omitting someone's name – and the greatest effort to teach us and help us in our development was made by Paolo Fonda, Paola Golinelli, Ettore Jogan and Vlasta Polojaz, among many others. One of our dear guest teachers at that time was also Stefano Bolognini, current President of IPA. Good collaboration and great help in the 2000s also came from the Belgrade Psychoanalytical Society, especially from the late Tamara Štajner Popović. In the 1990s we wholeheartedly joined the Summer Schools and Seminars organised by the Eastern European EPF Committee that later became the Psychoanalytical Institute for Eastern Europe (PIEE). In 1997 we formed the first official group for the development of psychoanalysis in Croatia. Between 1998 and 2008 we organised 12 PIEE Summer Schools in Croatia, and hosted a great number of eminent psychoanalysts from around the world, creating lifelong friendships and collaborations with the colleagues from eastern regions. We, members of the third generation, also travelled in the early 2000s for the supervisions and theoretical curricula at the Institutes in Milano and Amsterdam where we were friendly and helpfully accepted.

In 1999, a core group of analysts – direct IPA members for the establishment of Study Group – was formed. Professor Eduard Klain was the first one to be accepted (Betlheim's analysand and a leader of the new-wave of the psychoanalytic development) alongside the late professor Eugenia Cividini Stranic, Staniša Nikolić, Dr Dragan Josić and, finally, prof. dr. Vlasta Rudan. The Croatian Psychoanalytical Study Group was accepted at the IPA Congress in New Orleans in 2004. The sponsoring Committee was initially led by the late Professor Heinz Henseler, and consisted of Paola Golinelli and Vaclav Mikota; later Gerd Schmidthussen replaced prof. Henseler in the Committee. They worked with us for nine years until the IPA Prague Congress in 2013 where we became the IPA provisional Society. At the celebration of the new IPA status in Zagreb in October 2013, almost all of our teachers joined us and gave lectures, led by Stefano Bolognini, President of the IPA. 

Where are we now?

Acquiring the status of IPA provisional Society gave us significant impetus for the growth of our Society. During 1990s we were a rather small group of young psychiatrists led by a few experienced colleagues and teachers, and during the Study Group phase we grew up slowly, developing the group in the “splendid isolation” from our public and professional environment. The first openly public event as Study Group we organised in January 2011, celebrating the Centenary of the IPA. The public interest was above our expectations. In the 5 years since that event, the Society has tripled the number of its members, candidates, and analysands. Two direct members of IPA from Slovenia, together with their candidates and analysands, have temporarily joined our Society until they can form their own Study Group. In the other neighbouring country – Bosnia and Herzegovina, where psychoanalysis never existed, a couple of young colleagues-psychiatrists have joined a training course at our Society in 2011. Also, among young psychiatrists from Zagreb and residents from all over Croatia, psychoanalytic training has become an option of greater interest. Most of the psychoanalysts and candidates from Croatia are psychiatrists and not psychologists (we only have two of them) mostly because of the great tradition of Betlheim teaching at the Faculty of Medicine, but also because of the strong “anti-psychoanalytical tradition” at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. We still have bridges to build in the future.

Today we consist of 15 IPA members (2 from Slovenia), 7 training analysts (plus 2 with permission to perform training analyses – Bernard Rojnik and Lilia Varjačič Rajko from Slovenia), 15 candidates (2 from Slovenia, 2 from Bosnia and Herzegovina) and 12 analysands. We are a rather young, lively and vibrant Society with a lot of activities, from those that are only meant for members and candidates, to those open to the public. Almost every evening during the week, something is going on at our residence on Strossmayer Square 1 (a nice apartment in the very centre of Zagreb that we have leased s
ince 2008.): clinical seminars, “Freud Seminar” led by Professor Klain, “Winnicott Seminar” led by other members, “Outreach Seminar” for university students, the so-called clinical discussions open to psychotherapists from other schools where we discuss our clinical material together, film evenings, the so-called “InTreatment Seminar” where we watch and later discuss two episodes of the popular HBO's television show InTreatment, and so on. We also invite distinguished psychoanalysts from much more developed Societies and Institutes several times a year to come and teach us. We have more ideas, but at the present moment – due to the limited number of members who are all included in our activities and work enthusiastically and for free – we are content with the present state.

Since 2013 we have had a Liason Committee (Paola Golinelli and Gerd Schmidthussen) and strongly hope that at the next IPA Conference in Buenos Aires in 2017, we will reach the status of the IPA Component Society, around 90 years after Stjepan Betlheim finished his training in Vienna and became the founder, father and grandfather of psychoanalysis in Croatia.


Stanislav  Matacic M.D.
President of CPpS


Watch a recent video with the President of the Croatian Society Stanislav Matacic, interviewed by Kimberly Kleinman. March 2016.