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Recent History of Psychoanalysis in China

The Chinese government declared 2005 “The Year of Harmony.”  Zhang Jianxin, deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Science's Institute of Psychology in Beijing was quoted in the August 16, 2007 issue of The Economist, “…urban Chinese now face tremendous pressure to make money and, most importantly, compete with their neighbors for status. The result is a rise in disorders such as anxiety and depression.” In 2015, officials at the Chinese Psychiatrists' Association stated that China has just 17,000 certified psychiatrists and that mental illness is often diagnosed and treated by general practitioners, who too readily prescribe anti-depressant pills


In 2017, 54 million Chinese suffered from depression, representing 4.2 percent of the country’s population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).


​The number of people holding a national second- or third-level certificate in psychological counseling increased exponentially from 2009 to 2017, from 160,000 to an estimated 1 million. However, only 40,000 certificate holders provide psychological counseling on either a full- or part-time basis…


Nevertheless, in an attempt to remedy these issues, the Chinese government has considerably increased investments in mental healthcare over the past decade.  


According to a joint report by jiandanxinli and Peking University, …60% of people who receive counseling are between 25 and 35 years old, 50% are single, and over 70 % are female.


Students, people working in information technology, telecommunications, electronics, and finance represent the largest demographics. The most-discussed topics … are emotional problems, personal development, and romantic relationships.

                                     By I-Ting Shelly Lin, China Briefing


Among young mental health professionals and their teachers, interest in psychoanalysis is extraordinarily high. While they read widely about analysis, their clinical knowledge lags, limited by access to Western clinicians who speak Mandarin. Various groups of Western analysts have visited China to offer lectures and brief supervisions. Since 1982, a group of German analysts have visited Shanghai, Beijing and other cities for five day periods each year during which they lecture and offer “self-experience” sessions. What has been sorely lacking is organized intensive treatment or training. This is the gap that CAPA is attempting to fill.

In 1929, Freud wrote to the ex-Minister of Education of China (Zhang Shizhao):

“I am pleased by your intention, in whatever manner you care to carry

out… (to) introduce psychoanalysis to your native country, China."

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