Centre de recherches francophones belges

CONFERENCE - Narratives of the Therapeutic Encounter: Psychoanalysis, Talking Therapies and Creative Practice

The aim of the conference is to explore the ways in which talking therapies have been depicted in 20th century and contemporary creative outputs in French, and other languages (in life-writings, fiction, film, TV series, art installations). What can these narratives tell us about the therapeutic endeavour which finds its roots in Freud in the late-19th century, and has seen a flourishing of interventions and treatment modes over the last century, and which continues to provoke interest and debate into the 21st century? What do different depictions tell us about the particular culture and history in which they are written, and the controversies and debates they have engendered? Might such artistic endeavours enable us to trace the history of mental health treatment, via depictions of psychological, psychoanalytical and psychiatric practices? Furthermore, following on from Lacan’s view (via Duras), do we find in literature and the arts the foundations of the theories yet to be expressed?

If Freud argued that literature would help the practitioner of therapy as much, if not more than, the medical textbook, what are we to take from autobiographical and fictional depictions of the therapeutic encounter? Indeed, his own practice bore witness to his use of myth and literature to illustrate psychological processes. What can we learn from the patient’s experience as depicted in autobiographical and fictional writings? Freud described the practitioner’s case study as a ‘theory fiction’ ; we would now like to shift the focus to the patient’s words and experience, following up a suggestion by French author Serge Doubrovsky, who wrote in an article on autobiography and psychoanalysis  in 1993, that this could be a worthwhile investigation: ‘[… the narration of analysis, detailed log-book, or posthumous reconstitution by the patient has become almost a literary genre, which, incidentally, it would be interesting to study in parallel with the clinical narratives that originate from the other side of the couch’ (‘Autobiography/Truth/Psychoanalysis’, Genre(Spring, 1993), 27-42 (p. 33). 

Invited Plenary Speakers

  • Liz Allison (Psychoanalyst; UCL Psychoanalysis Unit, London, U.K.)
  • Marie Darrieussecq (Author and Psychoanalyst, France)
  • Jean-Pierre Lebrun (Psychoanalyst, Belgium)
  • Nicole Malinconi (Author, works include Séparation and Hôpital silence, Belgium)


We gratefully acknowledge the support of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh, and Wallonie Bruxelles International.

Event image courtesy of the Freud Museum London.

UDPATE: In September 2020, a book arising from the conference - edited by Susan Bainbrigge and Maren Scheurer - was published by Cambridge Scholars.

Find out more about the book on the Cambridge Scholars website

Courtesy of the Freud Museum London

CONFERENCE - Narratives of the Therapeutic Encounter: Psychoanalysis, Talking Therapies and Creative Practice

This interdisciplinary project seeks to explore the role that the creative arts (literature, film, media, art) have played in offering representations and explorations of minds, and relationships, therapies and mental health, and more pressingly, ill-health. (Event image courtesy of the Freud Museum London)

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