The Edinburgh International Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis, Ed. Ross M. Skelton.  Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.


Psychoanalysis in Canada


Donald L. Carveth, Ph.D.



Although Ernest Jones lived and worked in Toronto from 1908 to 1913, interest in psychoanalysis in Canada remained sporadic and individual until after World War II. In 1945 Miguel Prados, a Spanish neuropathologist without formal psychoanalytic training but with strong psychoanalytic interests, established “The Montreal Psychoanalytic Club,” leadership of which was assumed in 1948 by Theodore Chentrier, a lay member of the Paris Society who had obtained an appointment to the Department of Psychology of the Universite de Montreal.  In 1950, Eric Wittkower became the first psychoanalyst to be appointed to the faculty of Montreal’s McGill University.

As several members of the Montreal group received psychoanalytic training in the United States, there was an attempt to obtain official Study Group status in the International Psychoanalytic Association through sponsorship by the Detroit affiliate of the American Psychoanalytic Association.  In the face of some opposition by the APA, the group decided instead to seek sponsorship from the British Society to which two of its members (Eric Wittkower and Alastair MacLeod) belonged. This led to protests by the Americans who, as they had done in the debate over lay analysis, raised the spectre of their withdrawal from the International, this time over the threat to American hegemony over psychoanalysis in North America that this autonomous application from Canada represented to them.

Attempts by the Americans to dissuade the British from supporting the rapidly expanding Canadian Psychoanalytic Society were resisted by Anna Freud and Ernest Jones.  When Clifford Scott, an expatriate Canadian, succeeded William Gillespie as President of the British Society in 1954, British sponsorship was assured.  In the face of continuing American opposition the CPS initially sought to become a Branch of the British, but in 1957 it applied for and received full component society status within the IPA.

In 1959 the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society accepted its first class of students for psychoanalytic training in Montreal where, in 1961, the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis was established.  In 1954 Alan Parkin, a Canadian psychoanalyst trained in London, had returned to Toronto where, in 1956, he established the Toronto Psychoanalytic Study Circle, the forerunner of the Toronto Psychoanalytic Society.  In 1968 three branches of the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis were established: the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis (Quebec English Branch); the Institut Canadien de Psychanalyse (Section francaise), which later became the Societe Psychanalytique de Montreal; and the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis (Ontario Branch) in Toronto, and three corresponding branches of the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society were formed.  The Toronto Institute began training its first class of candidates in 1969.  In 1972 a fourth branch of the Canadian Society was formed in Ottawa, Ontario.  In 1978 an Ottawa Branch of the Canadian Institute initiated training in that city.  A Western Canadian Branch of the CPS was also established in that year.  This was followed in 1982 by the formation of the Southwestern Ontario Branch, based in London, Ontario, and in 1989 the Societe Psychanalytique de Quebec was established in Quebec City.

At present, the IPA affiliated Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis offers training in the Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis, the Institut Psychanalytique de Montreal and the Quebec English Branch of the CIP (Montreal).  The Canadian Psychoanalytic Society currently has over 400 members, with the largest concentration being in Toronto. Its website address is:

In 1990, the CPS established its own psychoanalytic journal, The Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis / Revue Canadienne de Psychanalyse under the direction of its founding editor, Eva Lester. It was subsequently directed for several years by Donald Carveth.  Currently, Brian Robertson is its Editor-in-Chief.  It is now in its 14th year of publication. The Journal’s website address is:

No doubt due to its ties to both the British and French psychoanalytic traditions, despite pressures from its neighbour to the south, Canadian psychoanalysis remained somewhat friendlier to lay analysis than was the case in the American Psychoanalytic Association where it was all but non-existent.  But despite providing full psychoanalytic training to selected non-medical applicants, by the late 1980’s there was a feeling among some psychoanalytically-oriented psychologists in Toronto that a separate training programme, outside the CIP and the IPA, was needed.

The Toronto Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, an offshoot of the Psychoanalytic Section of the Ontario Psychological Association, was formed and began training candidates in 1989.  It has attracted both medical and non-medical candidates; at the same time the TIP has become more welcoming to non-medical applicants.  In 1991 TICP became the local chapter of Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) of the American Psychological

Association.  Its website address is:


Beginning in the 1970’s some members of the Toronto Psychoanalytic Society lent active support to the establishment of the Toronto Child Psychoanalytic Programme. For a time this offered an intensive, four-year training in psychoanalytic child and adolescent psychotherapy for trainees most of whom come from backgrounds in child care, social work, psychology and related fields. It recently chose to reduce both the length and the specifically psychoanalytic content of its programme: it now offers a two-year training in child and adolescent psychotherapy. Its website address is:


In the 1980’s, the Toronto Psychoanalyic Society established a two-year Advanced Training Programme in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy for experienced psychotherapists from a variety of backgrounds who wish to orient their psychotherapeutic work along psychoanalytic lines.

Several of the Branch Societies of the CPS have Extension Programmes that offer lectures and seminars to the wider community on various psychoanalytic topics, such as, for example, psychoanalysis and cinema.  The Toronto Psychoanalytic Society has since 1990 sponsored an Annual Day in Psychoanalysis, open to the both the general and the mental health communities, at which distinguished guest speakers have presented papers on various psychoanalytic topics.  In addition, since the mid-1990’s a group of psychoanalysts from both the TPS and the TICP, together with interested psychiatrists and academics from the humanities and social sciences, have conducted an annual Day in Applied Psychoanalysis.

Canadian psychoanalysis has suffered from the usual trials and tribulations, scandals and infighting, and pressures toward schism that have tended to characterize psychoanalytic societies and institutes the world over.  In addition to the Anglo/French tensions and rivalry between Montreal and Toronto—problems that mirror those of the wider Canadian federation—during the 1970’s and 1980’s there was considerable conflict in the Toronto Society as some of its most senior members converted to Heinz Kohut’s self psychology, a rather uniquely American perspective that never caught on in Montreal.  But despite these and other difficulties—such as the decline of psychoanalysis within psychiatry—Canadian psychoanalysis is alive and well.  Although it has not produced anything like its own original theoretical or clinical paradigm, its uniqueness may well lie in its openness, like the mosaic of Canadian society in general, to the multiplicity of perspectives that characterize contemporary psychoanalysis.



Parkin, A. (1987).  A History of Psychoanalysis in Canada.  Toronto: The  Toronto Psychoanalytic Society.

Frayn, D.F. (2000).  Psychoanalysis in Toronto: Historical Perspectives.  Toronto:  Ash Productions.


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