New study of free clinics around the world to inspire mental health services

  • Date

    Wed 24 Aug 22

artist image of psychoanalyst with patient on couch and dream creatures

University of Essex researcher secures UKRI funding to investigate free psychoanalytic clinics and their 100-year legacy across the globe, to shape services for the future.

This new £1,646,700 interdisciplinary project, led by the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies at the University of Essex will map little-known histories of free psychoanalytic clinics, and ask how clinicians practice the social mission of psychoanalysis and how they innovate in the sphere of mental health. It will seek to inspire a new conversation on social justice and care.

 Professor Raluca Soreanu, project lead, said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead on this research programme, because the free clinics of psychoanalysis are laboratories of political experimentation which model different ways of working. Through a close look at their histories and practices, we can illuminate the fact that other economies are possible, other ecologies are possible, and that mental health commons are possible.”

In the West, psychoanalysis has often been seen as a practice for the most privileged in society, but in 1918 Sigmund Freud placed the free clinic at the heart of psychoanalytic thought and practice. Since 1918, Freud’s couch has gone through important transformations, when psychoanalysis becomes entangled with emancipatory movements and liberation struggles, and engages with social inequalities based on race, class, gender, poverty, and other forms of marginalization. This socially minded way of working has remained little known by the public and professionals alike.

The project, Free Clinics and a Psychoanalysis for the People: Progressive Histories, Collective Practices, Implications for our Times (FREEPSY), will examine the work of psychoanalysts in free and low-cost clinics in very different contexts, from Latin America, North America and Europe, through to the UK National Health Service. The project will create and maintain The Free Clinics Network, aiming to share the progressive histories of psychoanalysis, and to serve as a resource for clinicians and patients globally. The project will also generate The Free Clinics Archive, a lasting resource hosted at the University of Essex.

This is an interdisciplinary project spanning psychosocial studies, social theory, historical research and arts methods. It brings together a team of eight researchers, including two postdoctoral researchers, a PhD student, a visual artist, a curator, and an archivist.

The five-year project will run from October 2022. It was evaluated by the European Research Council and is one of 313 winners of their Consolidator Grants, part of EU’s Horizon Europe programme. It is funded by a UKRI Frontier Research Grant (ERC Consolidator Grant guarantee).

To find out more about the project visit the website.