1909, after a six-day journey from Vienna with his associates Carl Jung and Sándor Ferenczi, Sigmund Freud arrived in New York Harbor and spent a week sightseeing in the city. He had traveled to America to give a series of lectures on his “talking cure” at Clark University in Massachusetts. Before heading north, he spent time walking in Central Park and visiting the tenements of the Lower East Side. He saw the amusement rides on Coney Island and marveled at the antiquities in the Metropolitan Museum. Though his physical presence in the city was short-lived, New York has become Freud’s cultural home in the U.S. One hundred years later, the archetype of the neurotic, upper-middle-class Upper West Sider lying on the couch—perpetuated by everyone from Philip Roth to Woody Allen—is still how much of the public thinks of psychoanalysis. (“Tell me about your relationship with your mother…”) Several generations have been raised on the notion of psychoanalysis as New Yorker cartoon. This is something that analytic institutions like the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute must reckon with.
Inside NYPSI’s headquarters on the Upper East Side, the cream-colored walls and dark brown carpet give off a sterile, medical feel, like a photograph of a hospital lobby from decades past. Posters and busts of Freud adorn the space. NYPSI, the oldest analytic institution in the country, celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. The faculty here have a reputation among fellow analysts as the most Freudian of Freudians, but they are nevertheless trying to keep up with changing times. . . .