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Psychoanalysis in Canada: Brief History

Andrew Book
Translation by Louis Brunet

In 1957, the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) accepted the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society (CPS) as a constituent society with both English and French as its languages. However, training and presentations took place mainly in English until the late 1960s. In 1969, the CPS created a French-language branch, Société psychanalytique de Montréal. There has been a rich variety of psychoanalytic activities in both languages in Canada ever since.

The first IPA-member psychoanalyst arrived in Canada 40 years before 1957. In 1908, Ernest Jones, Freud’s closest English collaborator, moved from England to become a neuropathologist at the Toronto Lunatic Asylum. He remained here five years and did substantial organizational work while in Canada. However, he focused his efforts on the United States (he was one of the founding members of the American Psychoanalytic Association when it began in 1911) and his time in Canada left few traces. When IPA psychoanalysis did begin here, it began in Montreal, not Toronto (though, as we will see, Toronto was not far behind).

The first psychoanalytic group in Canada was the result of a typically Canadian relationship. An anti-Franco refugee from Spain, Miguel Prados, who had a position at the Montreal Neurological Institute, formed an alliance with a French-Canadian priest, Noël Mailloux, who taught at the Université de Montréal. Beginning early in 1945, four interns from the Allan Memorial Institute of McGill University began meeting regularly with Dr. Prados. (The Allan Memorial itself had only just opened; Ewen Cameron, later to become notorious for work he did at the clinic partly sponsored by the American CIA, was its first director.) There the small group discussed cases and what they referred to as “Freudian doctrine.” In 1946, they became the Montreal Psychoanalytic Club. Prados was the leader, even though he had done only a self-analysis and at the time was not affiliated with any psychoanalytic association.

At about the same time, Father Mailloux had created the Institut de psychologie at the Université de Montréal. In 1948, he joined Prados’s group. It eventually grew to 40 members and about 40 guests. In the early years, they invited such psychoanalytic luminaries as Sándor Lorand, Edith Jacobson, Bertrand D. Lewin, Phyllis Greenacre, Rudolph Loewenstein, Rene Spitz, George Gero, Charles Fisher, and Moe Kaufman (New York), Leo Bartemeier, and Richard and Edith Sterba (Detroit), and Eduard Lindeman and Edward and Grete Bibring (Boston). Its success notwithstanding, the club never trained psychoanalysts. Canadians who wanted to become analysts had to go to the United States, England, or France.

In 1948, Théo Chentrier, a member of the Société psychanalytique de Paris, became the first member of the IPA to reside in Canada since Ernest Jones. He was a professor at the Université de Montréal and joined the Psychoanalytic Club; later he became its director. In 1950, Eric Wittkower of the British Psychoanalytic Society (BPS) came to the Allan Memorial Institute. In 1951, Georges Zavitzianos, a member of the Société psychanalytique de Paris, immigrated to Montreal. Also in 1951, Alastair MacLeod, another member of the BPS, was hired by the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University.

Creation of the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society

With five members who were also members of the IPA, the club felt that it was ready to apply for membership in the IPA. Since only a group consisting predominantly of IPA members could be admitted, Chentrier, MacLeod, Prados, Wittkower, and Zavitzianos formed what the IPA calls a study group, the first stage of an application for membership, and applied to the IPA, hoping to be admitted at the 1951 Congress in Amsterdam. The bylaws of the time required that they be recommended by an recognized IPA group. The Detroit Psychoanalytic Society was a natural group to which to turn. However, the Detroit program to train analysts had lost its membership in the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) not long before, so they were not suitable. Boston would have been the next group to which to turn, but there is no record that the Montreal group contacted them.

Perhaps partly because of the lack of a recommendation and for other more political reasons, the 1951 Congress in Amsterdam referred the application to APsaA. Because one of the analysts in the study group was not a physician and the Canadians were planning to train other so-called lay analysts, APsaA refused to accept the application; APsaA’s ban on most non-physicians becoming members continued until the 1990s.

In response to this impasse, the group turned to the British Psychoanalytic Society. The BPS admitted them to membership without delay and in 1952, the group, now calling itself the Canadian Society of Psychoanalysts (CSP), became a part of the BPS. Chentrier was the president. APsaA immediately protested. They insisted that a 1936 agreement with the IPA known as the Marienbad Agreement gave them exclusive control over all of North America (even though it was never signed). The BPS replied that since Canada was a British dominion, it should be the sponsor. However, it offered a compromise―joint sponsorship. APsaA did not accept the offer.

Further negotiations ensued. Finally, the BPS indicated that it would not oppose the Montreal group becoming part of APsaA if this would help to create an IPA society in Canada. Chentrier, the non-physician analyst, even resigned as president of the CSP. Later the same year, Prados had the Montreal Psychoanalytic Club dissolve itself; he seems to have thought that the Americans were confusing it with CSP, which was made up almost exclusively of IPA members. These attempts to meet APsaA halfway changed nothing. APsaA still refused to accept the application.

Late in 1953, the group changed its name to the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society (CPS) (its name to this day), withdrew its request for membership in APsaA (enthusiasm for being part of America’s psychoanalytic association had never been high), and reinstated its membership in the BPS. By then, Bruce Ruddick, who had just graduated from the New York Institute, and JeanBaptiste Boulanger, his wife Françoise, and J. P. Labrecque, all trained by the Société psychanalytique de Paris, had moved to Montreal. The following year W. Clifford M. Scott (president of BPS at the time and a significant figure; see below), Johann and Gottfriede Aufreiter (trained in Vienna), André Lussier (trained in London), and, in Toronto, Alan Parkin (also trained in London) moved or returned to Canada. In 1955, Nathan Epstein (New York) moved to Montreal, and in 1957,Irvine Schiffer (Boston) moved to Toronto.

The CPS was incorporated under federal law on April 3, 1957. Having grown from 5 to 16 IPA-recognized members, the organization now had a really strong case for admission to the IPA. With sponsorship from the BPS, it was finally recognized as an independent component society of the IPA in 1957 during its 20th congress under neither the BPS nor APsaA.

In Toronto, the first CPS-member analysts were Parkin and Schiffer. They moved to Toronto during the time when the CPS was fighting for IPA membership. Parkin, an IPA member who had just graduated in London, returned in 1954. In 1956, he founded the Toronto Psychoanalytic Study Circle. In 1960 the group became the Section on Psychotherapy of the Ontario Psychiatric Association. To bring training to Toronto, an ad hoc (then Standing) Committee of the CPS for members in Ontario was formed in 1965, becoming CPS-Ontario in 1966. The group did not adopt its current name, Toronto Psychoanalytic Society, until 1979. Though the number of IPA members grew rapidly in Toronto, the group always remained within the CPS and never sought separate IPA recognition. Instead, when the opportunity arose in 1969, it became a separate branch society of the CPS (see below and, for details, Parkin’s History of Psychoanalysis in Canada).

With early members trained in London, Paris, Vienna, New York, and Boston, the CPS embraced all the major movements in psychoanalytic theory. The CPS continues to embrace all major points of view, probably more so than any national IPA society.

Beginnings of Training: Creation of the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis

In psychoanalysis, training is usually done by an institute of training analysts, which is separate from the society of all members. In the period now under discussion (1953/4), the BPS helped the CPS create a training program in Canada. The first training began in 1954 at the Allan Memorial Institute of McGill University. It was and still is the exception for psychoanalytic training programs to be at a university, so this affiliation was significant. The Canadian training program followed the program offered by the British Institute. Clifford Scott, mentioned above, who was a Canadian, was lured back to become the first director. Finally, new analysts could be trained in Canada.

Relationships with Ewen Cameron (director of the Allan Memorial) became strained within a few years. In 1959, the training committee of the CPS moved the program out of the university, and in 1960, it became a free-standing institute, the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis, with JeanBaptiste Boulanger the first director. The first training program, which had already started in 1959, had 12 teachers and 13 students (called candidates in the IPA). Of the 37 candidates trained from 1959 to 1967, the first language of 11 was French.

From One National Society to Seven Separate Branch Societies

In 1967, the CPS changed its bylaws and became a federation of separate branch societies. Both the CPS members in Toronto and the French-speaking members in Montreal wanted societies of their own. For cultural and geographic reasons, the new branches were granted considerable autonomy. However, the CPS retained control of training and membership.

In 1969, separate French-speaking and English-speaking branches were created in Montreal (Société psychanalytique de Montréal and CPS-Quebec English), and in Toronto the recently formed CPS-Ontario became a branch society (and in 1979 the Toronto Psychoanalytic Society [TPS]). Transformation of the CPS into a confederation was complete, and direct membership ceased.

Psychoanalysis in Toronto underwent remarkable growth from 1956 to 1969; at the point at which the group became a separate branch in 1969, it had 93 members.

The CPS now comprises seven branches. One decade into the 21st century, the two Montreal societies have about 100 members each and TPS has about 140. These three are by far the largest branch societies. The others are the Ottawa Psychoanalytic Society (founded 1972), the Western Branch of the CPS (Vancouver, founded 1978), the South Western Ontario Psychoanalytic Society (London, Ontario, founded 1982), and the Société psychanalytique de Québec (city of Quebec, founded 1988). The CPS as a whole now has about 400 members. There are no CPS branch societies in Atlantic Canada yet.

The training of new analysts in Canada underwent a similar devolution. From the first class in 1954 until 1969, there had been only one training institute in Canada, called as of 1960 the Canadian Institute of Psychoanalysis. In 1969, three branch institutes were created: the CPS-Quebec English Psychoanalytic Institute, the Institut psychanalytique de Montreal, and the CPS-Ontario Psychoanalytic Institute (which followed the lead of its parent society and became the Toronto Psychoanalytic Institute in 1979). The two Montreal institutes rapidly developed distinctive training programs, mainly reflecting practices in England and France, respectively.

Currently there are five training programs: “Quebec English,” as it is always called, now sponsors a second training program through the Ottawa Psychoanalytic Society in Ottawa and the Western Branch has formed an institute. There are now about 80 candidates in training at any one time in Canada.

Psychoanalytic Research and Publication

For years, CPS members communicated orally for the most part in both Montreal and Toronto. However, a number of first-generation analysts in Canada published important works in the first decades. This group included Clifford Scott, Georges Zavitzianos, JeanBaptiste Boulanger, Jean-Louis Langlois, Paul Lefebvre, André Lussier, Jean Bossé, Pierre Doucet, Guy Da Silva, Roger Dufresne, and Alan Parkin. In more recent decades, Patrick Mahony, Jean Imbeault, Charles Hanly, Dominique Scarfone, Eva Lester, Brian Robertson, Hassan Azim, Norman Doidge, and many other members have made internationally significant contributions. A few dozen analysts in Canada, including several of those just mentioned, have university appointments outside of medical schools.

Psychoanalytic journals in Canada have had an uneven history. The first issue of the Revue canadienne de psychoanalyse / Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, published in 1954 and sponsored by the CPS, was also the last for nearly forty years. In the spring of 1993, the journal re-founded as a semi-annual bilingual publication by Eva Lester, who edited it for many years. Since then, it has been edited by Donald Carveth, Brian Robertson, and Charles Levin.

In the meantime, a journal devoted to the work of the German-British analyst Melanie Klein was created in 1983, first called the Journal of the Melanie Klein Association, then the Journal ofMelanie Klein and Object Relations. went out of existence in the late 1990s.

Julien Bigras edited the first exclusively French-language review within the psychoanalytic community, Interprétation(1967 to 1971), which was followed by Frayages. The Société psychanalytique de Montréal has, since 1988, published an internal periodical three times a year, the Bulletin de la Société Psychanalytique de Montréal. A semiannual, semi-thematic, interdisciplinary journal, Trans,was published from 1992 to 1999. Also in 1992, a semiannual journal, Filigrane, began, aimed at psychoanalytic psychotherapists as well as certified psychoanalysts. The range of psychoanalytic publishing in French has never been matched by the English-speaking community.

Psychoanalysis in Canada outside the CPS and IPA

In Canada as elsewhere, IPA-member groups are not the only centres of psychoanalytic activity.

In English-speaking Montreal, the Argyle Institute and the Jewish General Hospital have offered psychodynamic training and treatment for decades. Many practitioners from both groups have gone on to formal training in the CIP.

In Toronto in the late 1980s, a group of psychoanalytic psychologists, many of them members of the psychoanalytic Division 39 of the American Psychological Association and some of them members of the CPS, created the Toronto Society and Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. The institute offers training in psychoanalysis outside the ambit of the Toronto and Canadian Societies and outside the IPA.

In Ottawa for many years, a group that called itself Le Cercle Freudien, centred on the University of Ottawa, sponsored activities in literature, film studies, and other social scientific and cultural areas. Some of its members were IPA analysts but most were not clinicians of any kind.

In Vancouver before the first IPA analysts arrived, John Christensen created the Vancouver Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Society (VPPS). Organized in 1985, it consisted of psychiatrists interested in psychoanalytic ideas. Katalina Bartok succeeded him in 1994. In 1996, the Western Canada Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association (WCPPA) was created, and it continues to meet. An influential group building bridges from the CPS to other clinicians is the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Training Program (PPTP), first chaired by Endre Koritar. Today, as the WB Extension Program, it offers courses in Victoria and Vancouver. (For more information on psychoanalysis in western Canada, go to

In French-speaking Canada, there are or have been quite a number of groups. The Réseau des cartels began in 1986 and focused on the work of the internationally well-known French analyst Jacques Lacan. The Groupe d’études psychanalytiques interdisciplinaires wascreated by a group of about 15 professors from the Université de Québec à Montréal, some of them CPS analysts, but most not. The Institut québécois de psychothérapie, begun in 1992, provides a two-year training program in analytic psychotherapy.

In the city of Quebec, non-CPS groups began very early. Father Henri Samson, who trained in France and was a contemporary of Father Mailloux, founded the Institut de psychothérapie de Québec in the 1960s for those who wanted training in analytic psychotherapy. The Groupe interdisciplinaire freudien de recherches et d’interventions cliniques et culturelles cooperated with psychiatrists to teach and discuss psychoanalytic psychotherapy based on the work of Jacques Lacan. The Cercle Jung de Québec, founded in the 1970s, promotes the work of Carl Jung. André Renaud, a member of the Société psychanalytique de Québec, led Étayage (Support) from 1984 to 1996, a training program for professionals who wanted to study analytic psychotherapy.

In short, psychoanalysis in Canada has a rich history and the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society sponsors a vibrant and growing program of psychoanalytic research and therapy.


This article relied for information on Jacques Vigneault, “Canada,” International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, and co-authored with Roger Dufresne as “History of Psychoanalysis in Canada,” in 100 Years of the IPA; Parkin, History of Psychoanalysis in Canada; Frayn, Psychoanalysis in Toronto; Hanly, “Canada,” in International Psychoanalysis, other sources (see the Bibliography). My thanks to Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Hanly for many valuable suggestions and to Karin Holland Biggs for arranging for information not available elsewhere about Vancouver.

Bibliography of Histories of Psychoanalysis in Canada

Cloutier, Y. (1988). La naissance de la psychanalyse à Montréal. Philosophiques, 15(1): 221–225.

Dufresne, R., & Vigneault, J.. (2011). History of psychoanalysis in Canada. In Peter Loewenberg and Nellie L. Thompson (Eds.), 100 years of the IPA (pp. 231–243). : International Psychoanalytic Association.

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

Hanly, C. (1992). Canada. In Peter Kutter (Ed.), International psychoanalysis. 2 (pp. 55–73). : Frommann-Holzboog.

Lowy, F., Dongier, M., Dufresne, R., Freebury, R., & Naiman, J. (2008). History and Culture in Canadian Psychoanalysis. Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 16, 74–94.

Lussier, A. (1987). Le “feu sacré”: De psychologie à la psychanalyse. Frayage, 3, 27–46.

Naiman, J. (1986). Psychoanalysis in Canada. IPA Newsletter, 18(4).

Naiman, J. (1988). Psychoanalysis in Canada. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 15, 386.

Paradis, A. (1988). La naissance de la psychanalyse à Montréal. Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française, 41(3), 443–446.

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

Prados, M. (1954). La psychanalyse au Canada. Revue canadienne de psychoanalyse, 1, 1–33.

Scott, W. C. M. (1987). Psychoanalysis in Canada. IPA Newsletter, 19(1).

Sourkes, T. L., & Pinard, G. (Eds.). (1995). Building on a proud past: 50 years of psychiatry at McGill. Montreal: McGill University.

Vigneault, J. (2005). Canada. In A. de Mijolla (Ed.), International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. Cengage.

Zavitzianos, G. (1988). Psychoanalysis in Canada. International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 15, 385–386.

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