Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (Picador Books)” as Want to Read:
Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (Picador Books)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (Picador Books)

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  322 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Through an intensive study of Aaron Green, a Freudian analyst in New York City, New Yorker writer Janet Malcolm reveals the inner workings of psychoanalysis.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published February 12th 1982 by Macmillan (first published January 1st 1977)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Psychoanalysis, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Psychoanalysis

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 968)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jun 30, 2014 Cheryl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of psychology, history of ideas, and those interested in analysis as a treatment option
Shelves: favoites
Finding this book was particularly important to me, as I have been seeking answers since my analysis ended in the summer of 2013.

Like an overture to a symphony, Janet Malcolm's inclusive book addresses the history of Freud's ideas, the traits and disturbances of an appropriate analysand, the interior of analytic sessions, transferences that are the core work of treatment, and the limitations of the theory. This 174 page book is a treasure for those wondering about analysis as a personal treatme
She's quoting her subject psychoanalyst (was he named in the book): "'I remember a seminar I once attended that was led by a brilliant and flamboyant Hungarian analyst named Robert Bak. The issue under debate was the nature of transference, and I raised my hand and asked rhetorically, "What would you call an interpersonal relationship where infantile wishes, and defenses against those wishes, get expressed in such a way that the persons within that relationship don't see each other for what they ...more
I heard Janet Malcolm endorsed by Stephen Metcalf in the Slate Culture Gabfest ( ) and it sounded like it might be an interesting read. Sure enough, this is a gripping account of the analytic relationship and what it means for the analyst and the patient. The sense of Freudianism as part science, part religious cult is ever-present, and the descriptions of the bureaucracy and office-politics within the psychiatric institutions is something I hadn't come across be ...more
When I read reviews of this book years ago, I came away with the idea that Malcolm debunked the effectiveness of psychoanalysis. That is far from the case. Yes, the book, and the interviews with 'Aaron Green,' make very clear that psychoanalysis is not about helping or curing people or making them happier, but about bringing about a relationship between the conscious and unconscious mind. No one is necessarily going to be happier about this and may, at first, feel miserable. On the other hand it ...more
Christian Schwoerke
I read this book in the 80s, remembered how much I'd enjoyed it, and then read it twice in July, the readings spaced a few weeks apart. I had it in mind at the time to write a detailed review of the book, and I wanted to get all the details right. To Malcolm's credit, the book easily bore the second reading and was just as fascinating. The profession of psychoanalysis, as represented by the profiled analyst "Aaron Green", is perversely difficult, and it makes many of its practitioners fussily ne ...more
This is an interesting window into psychoanalysis before major changes began to occur within clinical psychiatry and psychology in America. Gone are the days of physician exclusivity into APsaA and also the IPA. Gone are the days where many psychiatrists learn psychoanalysis in their residencies. Gone are the days of ego based, "classical" technique. The object relations and relational perspectives hold more influence now than ever before in America and let's face it, people seek cognitive or be ...more
Triecia Gibney
Be wary of this book. It will have you hunting down papers and buying more books as Malcolm weaves tantalising references throughout her tale of Freudian psychoanalysis. Malcolm intersperses her own reading/research with her interview of "Aaron Green" a graduate of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. The interview offers fascinating glimpses into the world of Freudian psychoanalysis in an oftentimes gossipy fashion and not all flattering to psychoanalysts. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
This is how much I love Janet Malcolm: I finished rereading this, my least favourite of her books, but the cats had just settled on my lap so I turned back to the first page and immediately, happily started reading it again. Kind of like the time me and Keg watched Honey twice in a row. Don't have anything insightful to say about this book, obviously.
Kevin Hilke
“At the end of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ the human characters wake up and rub their eyes and aren’t sure what has happened to them. They have the feeling that a great deal has occurred—that things have somehow changed for the better, but they don’t know what caused the change. Analysis is like that for many patients.”
Grace Dadoyan
A very quick read, this book gives a history of psychoanalysis. It does not give a particularly in-depth view of the process from the therapist's point-of-view - one of the claims of a reviewer on the back cover. It does show how even within schools of similar thought, there is contradiction and confusion about how much of the client's reactions are attributed to the past as opposed to what is happening in the present. Should therapists repress their thoughts and feelings and try to become a bla ...more
Oct 27, 2007 Lesley rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the unconsciously conflicted
Shelves: psychology
Impossible, I suppose, on account of what happens is the analysand pays the analyst an extraordinarily large sum of money to come to his or her office several times a week for several years, lay on a couch, and free associate, until the analyst (heretofore not terribly talkative) offers an interpretation of the analysand's unconscious conflicts and defenses that the analysand will refuse to accept. As my psychoanalysis professor explained, "Some people just can't handle that amount of freedom." ...more
Dennis McCort
Malcolm's book is a perceptive, well-written account of the web of politics and infighting that holds the New York City psychoanalytic community together- or keeps it apart, depending on your point of view. One comes away with the sense that the entire movement is, and has always been, built on the power of theoretical prejudice. Whose ideas have more clout right now? An eye-opening, sobering book, especially for those hold-outs who still look to psychoanalysis as a panacea.
David Wen
I'm not quite sure what this book is about. Reads like a fictional story between the author and a psychoanalyst but presents the profession's background and various mundane details. Other times it presents a fairly detailed history particularly regarding Freud and the different schools of thought. Maybe if it was organized a bit better I would've gotten more out of the book.
An interesting read though it doesn't quite delve into the paradoxical nature of the therapeutic interaction as much as I'd hoped. As a time capsule, it was interesting to see how reviled Otto Kernberg and the object relations folks were given how both are now universally celebrated. Kudos to Janet Malcolm for describing Kohut as " breathtakingly unreadable."
This book was interestingly constructed and kept me well engaged throughout the complete text. The initial second-hand description of classical Freudian concepts was the only part I found slow going and unnecessary.

I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Janet and Aaron Green. Revelations about the profession and relationships amongst psychoanalysts, as Green saw it, kept me engrossed in the reading. As someone who was already familiar with the distinctive schools within psychoanalysis,
If you're looking to self-diagnose your neurosis, you won't find much help here. Janet Malcolm pulls back the curtains to give a glimpse of the challenging job of psychoanalysing, amidst various theories and schools of thought on how to approach the field and its patients. Deceptively informative for a book that is only 163 pages thick.
This is my first encounter with Janet Malcom, and she's just as brutal, honest, and uncompromising as I heard. I fear being interviewed by Malcom: she captures every weighted gesture, nervous tic, self-effacing comment, and files it away. I skipped the assigned reading of The Journalist and the Murderer in college, but I think I'm going to correct that error shortly.
I'll just reprint my earlier review if that's okay, and it wasn't much of a 'review' in the first place, but here goes...

Janet Malcolm is a superb writer. She was recommended to me by a Professor of Psychoanalysis (and let's be honest, that's a fairly reasonable recommendation, wouldn't you say?) - specifically the books 'Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession' and 'In the Freud Archives'. Absolutely brilliant work, both of them. I'd read anything by Janet Malcolm.
Avi Spiegel
Janet Malcolm is the finest living American writer of nonfiction. This book is nothing short of a masterpiece. I first read it for a freshman writing class with Prof. Joe Sitterson at Georgetown and Malcolm's sentences rocked my world. I frequently re-read this along with Journalist and the Murderer and In the Freud Archives. Being able to go back and re-read her sentences is like being able to relive the best meal of your life, bite by bite. What a treat!!
This is an interesting overview of psychoanalysis, a sort of case study of an anonymous analyst, and his training and life. It is not "scholarly," in the sense of being of a critical overview of psychoanalysis. Rather, it gives the reader a flavor for the practice of psychoanalysis. If you've ever wondered what makes psychoanalysis different from other forms of psychotherapy, this is a good place to begin.
Worth reading. Probably not as good as I hoped for. I was hoping that it would give me tips on how not to be seduced by an interviewer. I suppose reading this made me more aware of the problem, which is the only real way to potentially avoid such a seduction. Remember the psychology of this should the police ever detain you for questioning. :o) peace out fools!
Very interesting take on psychoanalysis - which does seem quite impossible when thought of in this way. Janet Malcolm is an excellent writer - and writes about many different interesting subjects. This book was published in the early 80's but it maintains its relevance.
Mark Winborn
Excellent book about the "seemingly" impossible paradoxes of becoming a psychoanalyst. An insightful world into the psychoanalytic community and the motivations of those who choose psychoanalysis as a profession.
This book was a gift from Larry Turtil, MD, who was beginning a career in pyschoanalysis in New York City.
Vaya manera de escribir sobre el psicoanálisis sin estudiarlo, del todo.
Aug 29, 2007 Rachel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Freudians
Even better than In the Freud Archives. Very funny but insightful.
Absolutely fabulous.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 32 33 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Person and the Situation: Perspectives of Social Psychology
  • On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life
  • Japan: A Reinterpretation
  • Philosophy and Social Hope
  • Journey Of The Adopted Self: A Quest For Wholeness
  • Microworlds: Writings on Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • On Metapsychology: The Theory Of Psychoanalysis: 'Beyond The Pleasure Principle' 'The Ego And The Id' And Other Works
  • An Introduction to Japanese Society
  • Freud And Beyond: A History Of Modern Psychoanalytic Thought
  • Penny Red: Notes from the New Age of Dissent
  • What Computers Still Can't Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason
  • The Function of Criticism
  • The New Black: Mourning, Melancholia and Depression
  • The File : A Personal History
  • Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty
  • The Fifty-Minute Hour
  • The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, & the Problem of Domination
  • Brooklyn Zoo: The Education of a Psychotherapist
Born 1934Janet Malcolm (born 1934) is an American writer, journalist on staff at The New Yorker magazine, and collagist.[1] She is the author of Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (1981), In the Freud Archives (1984) and The Journalist and the Murderer (1990).
More about Janet Malcolm...
The Journalist and the Murderer The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes In the Freud Archives Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial

Share This Book