Jacques Hochmann

Arrangements of Memory Self-Portrait of a Deranged Psychiatrist Publication date : April 13, 2022

Jacques Hochmann is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He is an honorary member of the Société psychanalytique de Paris, emeritus professor at the Université Claude-Bernard, and honorary physician at the Hôpitaux de Lyon.

Jacques Hochmann believes in “the importance of one’s inner narrative in the formation of identity and its uncertainties.” This statement could define a humanist version of psychiatry – the exact opposite of more somatic and “objectivizing” conceptions. The desire to reduce psychic suffering to its neurobiological and behavioral determinants, for Hochmann, reflects an abandonment of the desire to understand, in the name of illusory scientific rigor. In his opinion, psychiatry remains a “special medicine” that retains an “artisanal” dimension. He wishes to cultivate that specialness, and attempts to understand and treat that suffering – and the apparent madness of those who were once called crazy – by giving them meaning and purpose.

The book is an illustration of this position: rather than presenting an argument, it offers a biographical narrative bringing together the psychiatrist’s personal and professional experiences and his practices and theoretical choices.

We discover the personal journey of a practitioner who, trained in the still rather inhuman world of French psychiatric institutions of the 1950s-60s (electroshock therapy and lobotomy – residues of quasi-penal doctrines and practices), during a stay in California, discovers the very libertarian ideas and practices of Palo Alto and the West Coast of an America which at the time was open to every experience. The quest for a humanist psychiatry is thus almost inevitably associated with a rejection of methods that are overly dependent on chemistry and neurobiology, one that gets closer to psychoanalytic approaches the author espouses. Along the way, we find very personal portraits of certain theoreticians, such as Carl Rogers, who hosted Hochmann in California.

This work is both a history of the proliferation of psychiatric ideas, practices, and experiments that were pursued from the end of the 1960s, and a remarkable account of the development of this “artisanal” psychiatry, which aims to be respectful of the patient and intent on reintegrating the experience of madness into the framework of a full and complete human experience.