The Making of Psychotherapists: An Anthropological Analysis

The-Making-of-Psychotherapists-James-DaviesHere, for the first time, is a book that submits the psychoanalytic training institute to deep anthropological scrutiny. It expertly uncovers the hidden institutional devices used to transform trainees into professionals.

By attending closely to what trainees feel, do, and think as they struggle towards professional status, it exposes the often subtle but deeply penetrating effects psychoanalytic training has upon all who pass through it; effects that profoundly shape not only therapists (professionally and personally), but also the community itself.

Davies fascinating and original data is culled from his extensive fieldwork, his case-studies of clinical work, and his interviews with teachers, senior practitioners and trainees.

This book is written to be accessible to all those who have an interest in the therapeutic profession from the professional (whether psychotherapist or anthropologist) to the trainee and general reader.


“A wise, thoughtful, careful examination of a world often shrouded in secrecy. Davies is both a trained psychotherapist and a trained anthropological observer. As a result, his observations have a quite different feel than most of the literature in either field. Not only psychotherapists, but their clients (not to mention anthropologists) can look to this book to understand how this profession learns to see and respond to human pain.”
Professor Tanya Luhrmann, Stanford University

“Combining narrative and analytical skills, Davies provides a gripping story of life among trainee and professional psychoanalytic therapists and their patients. The clinic is the participant anthropologist’s village and the dramatis personae are the individuals he studies, whose ambitions and problems punctuate their learning and experiences of psychotherapy…. While laying bare the sometimes unpalatable essence of such training, Davies conveys warmth and empathy for his fellow participants. The value of the study goes beyond the particular instance of psychoanalysis and tells us how small groups meet all kinds of unanticipated consequences as they transmit the knowledge on which their profession depends”.
Professor David Parkin, Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford.

“A remarkable anthropological study via participant observation of the world of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Davies has produced a tour de force of critical yet compassionate engagement covering all aspects of our institutional life, including the institution of the clinic itself…. Anyone involved with training or other work of any kind in therapeutic organisations who cares about the degree of self-knowledge and social awareness they bring to their jobs should read this work.”
Professor Andrew Samuels, University of Essex

“According to James Davies’s fascinating book, the medicalized mental health landscape in which English psychoanalytic institutes currently operate…further discourages analysts from critically assessing their institutional systems, theoretical assumptions, and professional practices….This thought-provoking book, which is suitable for teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate level, should make even the most unreflexive analyst question traditional institutional practices. If such questioning ultimately leads to better patient care, then we all stand to benefit”
Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“James Davies has produced an unprecedented book that is stimulating, challenging and unequivocal in its claims.”
The United Kingdom Association for Psychotherapy Integration

“An insightful study of the training of psychotherapists from an anthropological perspective…[and] a valuable contribution to ethnographies of professional socialization.”
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“His careful and well-written examination of the training process and the insights that he brings from anthropology offer us a timely and valuable contribution to meeting the many challenges now threatening the vitality and even very existence of our profession…. This groundbreaking new book dissects the way that the profession is taught and asks whether its very vitality is at stake.”
The Foundation for Psychotherapy

“I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the field of psychoanalysis, in the culture of institutions, and in how institutions foster change in their constituent members.”
Contemporary Psychology (American Psychological Association)

“James Davies’ book is a thorough and thought provoking anthropological study of the culture of psychoanalytic training…. On his impressive juxtaposition of mastery of both anthropological and psychoanalytic theory, Davies points out that in a parallel development psychoanalysis developed the notion of countertransference and anthropology that of self-reflexivity….Davies’ book is well written, thoroughly and academically resourced and describes with acute detail the striving for the establishment of the doctrine of psychoanalysis…. It is essential reading for anyone involved in the therapy world who is interested in the understanding of the philosophical, historical, social and political implications of the construction of psychoanalysis in the twentieth century.”
The European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counseling