Repressed for decades like the childhood traumas he diagnosed, Sigmund Freud is making a comeback in Russia as the country sheds the stigmas long attached to psychotherapy.
Until a decade ago, Freud's work was banned here and Russians viewed psychiatric treatment as a nightmarish experience. At its worst, Soviet authorities used psychiatry to classify political dissidents as mentally unstable and lock them up in hospitals.Soviet psychiatry relied heavily on drugs designed mostly to control captive patients. The Western notion of a give-and-take session between an understanding therapist and voluntary patient was largely an alien concept.
But since the Soviet breakup, Russians have embraced a wide range of therapies, stoking demand for everything from expensive, long-term psychoanalysis to traditional faith healing.
"In the Soviet era, it was considered shameful for a person to seek psychiatric treatment," said Alexander Tkhostov, a practicing psychologist and a professor at Moscow State University. "The new generation is much more willing to consider therapy."
And many patients - and their neuroses - are products of the new, chaotic Russia, therapists say. The newly rich Russian man, overwhelmed by stress in the helter-skelter world of business, is a typical patient. His bored, neglected wife, who has time and money to burn, but little sense of purpose, is also a candidate for the therapist's couch.
Sex problems that were taboo subjects in the past are now aired openly in the media, encouraging some to seek help. And a sharp rise in drug abuse has created a need for counseling that never before existed.
"We've become universal specialists because there are so many different problems and so few places to get help," said Marina Buligina, a psychologist at the Russian-American Recovery Center.
The private center, established in 1990 with American help, counsels people suffering from drug and alcohol abuse. But many patients now come with problems unrelated to chemical dependency.
Russians have traditionally had high rates of depression and suicide and a legendary reputation for soul searching. That's made Russians receptive to traditional remedies such as witchcraft and folk medicine for generations, and more modern approaches are now taking root.
There are crisis hotlines, group therapy and family programs, and state schools increasingly have their own psychologist on site.
Because there was no system for teaching Western methods of psychotherapy, there are still relatively few practitioners. Most are in Moscow or St. Petersburg, working in private clinics where they cater to the new elite and charge $50 or more for one-hour sessions.