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  • Writer's pictureAl Tyers Therapy

Photo Friday: Sigmund Freud's couch and his office near Finchley Road

Picture of Sigmund Freud's couch in the Freud Museum in London
Inspiration for a million cartoons: Freud's couch in Maresfield Street. (Picture: Al Tyers)

Each Friday, I post a picture I have taken or found and share a few thoughts about it.

So this is where it all began for psychoanalysis! Well, kind of: Sigmund Freud was building on millennia of wonderment about what might be going on in the mind beyond what we are acutely aware of in the moment. But it was Freud, of course, who 'discovered' the unconscious and became the bedrock for all talking therapy today.

And it was on this couch that his patients would recline as they explored the deepest recesses of their unconscious mind. Freud had the couch in his home in Vienna and brought it over when he came to London in 1938. It's hard to think of.a single bit of furniture that has had such a cultural impact.

It's an intriguing piece, with its patterned throws and cushions, and in fact the whole room is really fascinating. Freud was a great collector of all sorts of curios: the room is packed with statues from around the world, deep and huge shelves of leather-bound books, weird and wonderful little trinkets. The Freud Museum does a great job of explaining about his life and work.

It feels a bit like you have wandered into a dream in there, I thought, all this knowledge and eccentric bits and bobs. I read that Freud used to smoke his cigar while he analysed his patients, which must have given the room even more of a foggy, fuggy swirling feeling.

It struck me that he must have had a real sense of theatre, it's all quite dramatic and I wonder how overwhelming it could have have been for the people that came to see him.

Although Freud's ideas about the id, the ego, the superego and the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious mind are still used in therapy today, the conception of what a therapeutic relationship should be has changed hugely.

Freud's room feels very much that his intellect and, by the time he was in London, huge status and celebrity are at the heart of his work. The contrast with most therapists today, and I absolutely include myself in this, is that we put what the client brings and what the client needs at the centre of the work

Getting on for a hundred years ago, Freud was dispensing insights and wisdom. I work with people to help them understand themselves. But what Freud's couch represents: a place where a person could truly explore, without judgment or filter or worry that the listener will be shocked, holds true today.


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