Freudian Slip: Hebrew U. Shrinks Psych Studies

Students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem are launching a campaign against what they perceive as the university's intention to recategorize psychology as an exact science. The move will take the psychology department out of social sciences and humanities and place it in life sciences.

Once psychology is defined as an exact science, studies will place less emphasis on arguments between Freud and Yung and therapy, and focus on brain research laboratories, research methods and statistics.

Psychology students were alerted to major changes at the beginning of the year. For example, the introductory course "Theory of Personality," traditionally taught by a clinical psychologist, was renamed "Personality" and is now taught by a faculty member. Almost all the former course studies concerning therapy or psychoanalysis theory had been removed.

Today a psychology student can graduate with a B.A. almost without hearing of psychoanalysis founder Sigmund Freud or his followers.

Freud's theory is summed up in one single lesson throughout the B.A. studies. Other psychology theory founders such as Jacques Lacan, Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott are not mentioned at all.

"I completed my degree and didn't hear Lacan's name even once," says Hagai Alkayam, a graduate student and one of the leaders of the campaign against the change in the department. "There are other approaches to psychology, like humanistic psychology and existentialist psychology that are not mentioned in this department," he says.

Studies pertaining to psychological therapy have all but disappeared. The University wants to emphasize the field's scientific aspect so therapeutic training is not provided at all in the B.A. studies.

"There's a struggle between those who want to turn psychology into a science and cut it off from people. This approach says you don't have to know who the person facing you is to treat him," says Alkayam.

"When we tried to speak of therapeutic issues and Freud we were told that's not scientific, unproven and there's no evidence to its existence," he says.

"Psychology is a science," Professor Yaacov Schul of the university's psychology department says in response to the students' protests.

"Undergraduate psychology students should not learn the profession's practical side. Only one who completes his M.A. goes onto an internship and learns the professional side. It would be a mistake to let people with no background enter clinical training because they don't have the background to understand it," he says.