In therapy? In Argentina, it's the norm By Elizabeth Landau, CNNupdated 11:40 AM EDT, Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is also a haven for psychoanalysis, a method of psychology invented by Sigmund Freud. It's common for expatriates and natives alike to take advantage of the city's many therapists to explore their problems. Click through to learn more about psychoanalysis. The people in this photo are not necessarily patients. Sigmund Freud is hailed as one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. He and others laid the foundation for modern mental health practice. The field of psychoanalysis stays closer to his original ideas than other branches of psychology.
Freud believed problems in adulthood could be traced to being "stuck" in stages of development, and some of those ideas are still in popular culture. People with an "oral fixation," for instance, have not resolved conflicts from their infancy up until about age 2. Those who are "anal retentive" may have had parents who created anxiety around toilet training, around 2 to 4 years old, Freud believed. Therapists today don't force patients to talk about these experiences, but generally, personality forms by age 6 or 7, says Gabriel Rolon. The "Oedipus complex" refers to boys who desire their mothers and feel threatened by their fathers around ages 4 to 5, Freud believed; girls, on the other hand, experience "penis envy." Therapists today, even psychoanalysts, admit that Freud's development patterns such as this one do not apply to everyone, although they may be useful generally in thinking about development. Transference happens when a patient redirects his or her feelings about one person toward another, Freud believed. For example, a patient may come to relate to a psychiatrist or significant other in the same way as he or she did to a parental figure.
Negative reactions to a spouse may, in theory, come from bad feelings toward someone else being transferred. Recognizing these patterns may be helpful as patients work out their problems. Freud talked about the mind in terms of three parts: The id, ego and superego. The id is driven by pleasure; it has all the person's wishes and motivations. The ego is the cognitive, rational apparatus to deal with life. The superego serves as the person's conscience, driving guilt and incorporating societal pressures. These may not exist as physical structures in the brain, but they do provide guidance for thinking about how people repress their true wishes, impose shame on themselves and balance desires against the expectations of others.
Buenos Aires (CNN) -- Curled up in a fetal position, Vivi Rathbon would stare at the textured wallpaper of her analyst's office as she spoke.
Sometimes she'd lie flat on her back with her arms dangling off the leather couch. Her therapist sat behind her in a recliner, out of her view. The door was locked for privacy.
This is how Rathbon, of Boise, Idaho, began her sessions of psychoanalysis when she lived in Buenos Aires after college. She went into therapy in 2011 because she suffered from intense depression and felt guilty about choosing to live so far from her family.
Before seeking help, she didn't know that psychoanalysis, while viewed as somewhat obsolete by many professionals in the United States, is commonplace in Buenos Aires. When she first went to see her therapist, she had no idea what she was in for, and spent the first two weeks of sessions lying in silence.
"It was really awkward at first," said Rathbon, 26, who moved to Argentina after graduating from college into a tough job market. "It's very Woody Allen. You're laying there, the analyst just says, 'OK, talk.' 'Talk about what?' 'Anything.' It's free association. You just have to talk about whatever comes to your mind. And that's actually a lot harder than you would think."
It's not just psychoanalysis that's popular in Argentina. The country has the distinction of being home to more psychologists per capita than anywhere else in the world. Almost half the country's psychologists are concentrated in the capital city of Buenos Aires.
Modesto Alonso is a psychoanalyst in Buenos Aires who keeps track of how many psychologists practice in Argentina.Portenos -- that's what residents of Buenos Aires call themselves -- say they don't have the same stigma about seeking mental health treatment as Americans. Whereas mental health treatment in the United States might be seen as something to keep secret, it's common in Buenos Aires to talk about emotional problems or what's going on in therapy.
Going to a therapist just for a space to work through a certain issue might seem frivolous in some cultures, but it's normal in Buenos Aires, said Daniela Frankenberg, a bilingual psychologist practicing there.
"In the expat community here, I see more and more people coming to my office who perhaps in their home country would have never done therapy," Frankenberg said. "Here, feeling that it's something that people do, (they) give themselves room to do that."
Psychotherapy is a tool, "not only to cure emotional and psychological illnesses, but also tools to develop oneself as a person, with a greater quality of life," says psychologist Modesto Alonso.
With a gentle grandfather-like demeanor, Alonso talks about the most recent study that he and colleagues conducted on psychologists in Argentina. He emphasized that some of the figures are approximate, especially with regard to how many are in Buenos Aires, but they are the best that are out there.
A 2005 World Health Organization study ranked Argentina as the world leader in psychologists per capita, at 106 psychologists per 100,000 people. WHO's numbers for 2011 don't include the country, but Austria's 80 per 100,000 would still pale in comparison to the 202 psychologists per 100,000 that Alonso and colleagues estimated for Argentina in a 2012 study.
Using data from 2011, his group showed that Argentina has about 81,000 practicing psychologists in the country, 46% of whom are in Buenos Aires. These numbers do not include psychiatrists.
By comparison, according to the American Psychological Association, based on 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 33 clinical, counseling and school psychologists per 100,000 people in the United States -- in line with estimates based on licensing data.
As expected, there are higher concentrations of psychologists in urban vs. rural areas. That also applies in Argentina; in Buenos Aires, there are 1,280 psychologists per 100,000 people, according to Alonso's study.
More and more students are becoming psychologists, too -- about 2.6 students are entering a psychology program for each one who graduates.
One of the soon-to-be psychology graduates is Agustina, 31, who did not want her last name used because her future patients may Google her name.
Every member of Agustina's family goes to some kind of therapy, but, she's quick to add, "It's not that we are completely crazy or something. Nobody has big issues."
She's in group therapy, in which participants speak about their problems and a therapist mediates the discussion. In her circle at school, anyone who hasn't been to therapy is seen as aberrant -- it's like "Oh my God, this person has issues," she said.
Do psychologists still listen to Freud?
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