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Before the Second World War, very few Americans visited psychologists or psychiatrists. Today, millions and millions of Americans do. How did seeing a “shrink” become, quite suddenly, a typical part of the “American Experience?” In his fascinating book Shrink: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in America (Nebraska University Press, 2013), Lawrence R. Samuel examines the arrival, remarkable growth, and transformation of psychoanalysis in the United States. As Samuel shows, Americans have a kind of love-hate relationship with their “shrinks”: sometimes they love them and sometimes they loath them. The “shrinks” seem to know that their clients are fickle, and so they “re-brand” their technique with some regularity. Sometimes it’s “analysis,” sometimes it’s “therapy,” sometimes it’s just “counseling.” But, regardless of what it’s called, it’s always some variation on the “talking cure” and it can always be traced to Freud.
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