Spanish Psychoanalytical Society


A Brief History

In Spain, people began to hear about Freud very early on. Already in 1893, two scientific journals of the time published a paper entitled “The Mental Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena”. Even throughout the first and second decade of the 20th century some educators, jurists, as well as literary and artistic personalities were receptive to the new Freudian ideas.

In 1931 and with the arrival of the second Spanish Republic, came a cultural and scientific resurgence that promoted a debate about psychoanalytic ideas. A discussion was established between two groups. One was made up of those who came from an earlier French influence characterized by a heightened sensitivity to the psychological contents of mental illness. The other group consisted of professionals who had been highly influenced by German, Krapelinian psychiatry and neuropathology. 

It was this environment that led Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset to recommend the translation of Freud's works, which was subsequently entrusted to L. López Ballesteros, a scholar in German letters. López Ballesteros translated almost all of Freud´s work into Spanish comprising 17 volumes between 1922 and 1934. 

Freud, a connoisseur of translation, wrote to him expressing his admiration, “I am, above all, astonished that one who, like you, is neither a doctor nor a psychiatrist by profession should have been able to obtain so absolute and precise a mastery over material which is intricate and at times obscure”.

Freud´s works translated into Spanish planted some of his ideas in numerous journals of the time where terms such as repression, censure, unconscious, interpretation of dreams, and even infantile sexuality could be read. This only increased the already established controversy between progressives and psychiatrists of conservative ideology. The world of culture also became impregnated with psychoanalysis; Lorca, Dalí and Buñuel were now able to read Freud in Spanish.

Among progressive psychiatrists was Ángel Garma, a disciple of the Nobel Prize winner and opponent of psychoanalysis S. Ramón y Cajal. Garma travelled to Berlin in 1927 where he contacted Eitingon, was analyzed by T. Reik, and became a member of the German Psychoanalytic Society (GPS) in 1930. He returned to Spain as the first IPA psychoanalyst. In 1925, a Catalan psychiatrist Ramón Sarró travelled to Vienna where he met Freud who referred him to Helen Deutsch for his personal psychoanalysis. He later broke it off to return to Barcelona. Despite his ambivalence towards psychoanalysis, as professor of psychiatry he collaborated with the first psychoanalysts who would later be the founders of the Spanish Psychoanalytical Society. 

Following the disastrous Spanish civil war in 1939 and the triumph of Franco’s dictatorship, the scientific debate between followers and opponents of psychoanalysis was aborted. Indeed, many of the former had to abandon the country. Ángel Garma emigrated to Argentina where he contributed to the founding of the Argentina Psychoanalytic Association. Emili Mira, first chaired professor of psychiatry, and interested in Freudian ideas, emigrated to various South American countries. Miguel Prados, a psychiatrist and pupil of Garma, took refuge in Canada and participated in the founding of the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society.

In Spain, the scene was taken over by psychiatrists who had affinities with the new military regime that, together with a peculiar version of Catholic religious principles, held sway over the ideology of culture and science in the country.  

SEP Founding Members

Notwithstanding, in the 50s a slight change could be seen. In Barcelona, some mental health professionals and intellectuals began meeting to study Freud under the name of the Erasmus Group of Anthropological and Humanistic Studies. In 1950, three of these people – Pere Bofill, Pere Folch and Júlia Corominas – travelled to Paris and to Geneva where they contacted IPA psychoanalytic societies and began training. They subsequently became members of the Swiss society. This allowed them to begin the transmission of psychoanalysis to a new generation in Barcelona. 

During their stay in Geneva, they met other professionals from Madrid and Lisbon who were also interested in psychoanalysis and with whom they´d end up founding the first psychoanalytic society on the Iberian peninsula – the Portuguese-Spanish Psychoanalytic Society (SLEP) accepted by the IPA in 1959.

SEP Founding Members 

Later, in 1966, the Lisbon group, authorized by the IPA, organized itself into a study group.  The SLEP was renamed the Spanish Psychoanalytic Society –SEP- and in 1973, the Madrid group separated from it and the Psychoanalytical Association of Madrid was founded.  Notwithstanding, relations between the three societies were maintained through frequent scientific meetings. This finally led to the Iberian Congress in 1989, held every two years since that time.  Also, in 1983 the 33rd IPA Conference was held in Madrid with the collaboration of the Madrid Psychoanalytical Association and the Spanish Psychoanalytical Society whose headquarters was in Barcelona. This contact between societies has been extended to what is now the Hispanic-British Meeting between the British and the two Spanish societies. 

Hispanic-British Meeting 2018

Previously, psychoanalysis was present in Spain through two important events held in Barcelona. In 1956, Professor Sarró held the first Iberian-American Conference at the university. P. Bofill came from Geneva and actively participated and discussed the ideas of Garma regarding the direct interpretation of the symbolism of psychosomatic symptoms. The other event was the Fourth World Conference on Psychotherapy that a large number of foreign psychoanalysts participated in. Among the more well-known were Alexander from the United States, and R. Diatkine and J. Lacan from France, J. Corominas and P. Bofill presented a paper at this conference. Soon after, in 1962 the 23rd Conference of Romance Language Psychoanalysts took place. Bofill and Folch presented one of the plenary papers on “Clinical and Technical Problems in Counter-transference”.

Relationship with British Analysts

The Barcelonese group of psychoanalysts, who were already full members of the IPA by the time the 22nd Conference took place in Edinburgh in 1961, contacted British psychoanalysts Hanna Segal and Betty Joseph, having decided to broaden their training and to undergo reanalysis. Bofill underwent his reanalysis with H. Segal, Folch with Donald Meltzer, Júlia Coromines with Salomon Resnik, N. Abelló with Elliot Jacques, and Terttu Eskelinen with B. Joseph. Foreign analysts Hanna Segal, Herbert Rosenfeld, Donald Meltzer, Marta Harris, Betty Joseph, Ruth Riesenberg and Isabel Menzies also went to Barcelona to enrich the training of new candidates through the teaching of seminars and supervisions. They were all from the British society and part of the Kleinian group there in London. This relationship between SEP and the Kleinian group has continued over the years and up into the present. 

Betty Joseph with Pere Folch and Mª Victoria Oliva

Expansion of SEP

In 1971, the Institute of Psychoanalysis of Barcelona was founded in order to continue the training of psychoanalysts. In 1973, a group of members of SEP created a training school for psychotherapists called Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in the Public Institution (PPIP). Members and analysts-in training of the Institute of Psychoanalysis of Barcelona began to collaborate with both general as well as psychiatric hospitals. 
In the last 20 years, our society has branched out to include a group of members and analysts-in-training in Andalusia. This was initiated by Emilio Jiménez and in 1994; the SEP- Andalusia group was created. Since that time, a day conference on Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy is held in Andalusia.

Tribute to Emilio Jiménez, initiator of the SEP-Andalusia group

Our society has contributed to the organization of various international events. In 1962, the XXIII Conference of Romance Language Psychoanalysts in which Bofill and Folch presented a plenary paper entitled “Clinical and Technical Problems in Counter-transference”.  In 1987, The European Federation of Psychoanalysis (EFP) and SEP organized the Seventh EFP Conference in Barcelona with the theme “The Negative Transference”. In 1997, SEP organized the IPA¨s 40th conference on “Psychoanalysis and Sexuality”.  Terttu Eskelinen carried out important tasks in the EFP, particularly as editor of the bulletin from 1980 to 1988, and later on, from 1991-1995, as the EFP´s president. In 2007 the EFP conference took place in Barcelona and, once again, under the theme of “Time and Atemporality”. In 2011, SEP organized an international meeting within the framework of the Committee of Women Psychoanalysts (COWAP) under the auspices of the IPA with the theme “Feminine and Masculine Today”. 

COWAP 2011 Feminine and Masculine Today Congress

Along with our society´s interest in training psychoanalysts, there has always been a strong commitment to public institutions in the area of mental health. Many members and analysts-in-training work in public institutions, and several of our members have participated in the creation of mental health services mainly in the area of infancy and youth. In addition, since 2008, our society has an agreement with the University of Barcelona, where a master's degree in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in Public Assistance is offered by SEP.

Master’s Degree in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in Public Assistance

Seminars and workshops are offered for mental health professionals in addition to analyst training. A very important social function is the Clinical Assistance Service that offers psychoanalytic treatments at reduced prices.

Clinical Assistance Service Committee 

In honor of one of our founding members, the Julia Coromines Award is awarded to a deserving applicant every two years.

SEP Journals 

SEP publishes two journals:  Revista Catalana de Psicoanàlisi in Catalan, founded in 1984 by J. Coromines and P. Folch, and another journal entitled Temas de Psicoanálisis in Spanish founded in 1996, appearing since 2011 in digital format. Both journals come out twice yearly. Since 1986, the Revista Catalana de Psicoanàlisi holds a yearly day conference on diverse themes in psychoanalysis and applications of psychoanalysis aimed at a broader audience than just psychoanalysts. 

Journals of SEP 

Traditionally, training at SEP has been predominately in post-Kleinian thinking. A great number of SEP´s members continue thinking and working from this approach. Other members, however have developed different approaches within psychoanalysis based on the fundamental theories of authors such as Ferenczi, Winnicott, Kohut and other authors closer to object relations theory in a broader sense.  

Our Institute of Psychoanalysis turns 50 this year and continues with many projects. Moreover, the Society faces the new challenges around the diffusion of psychoanalysis to future generations with enthusiasm.