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Psychoterapy and Psychoanalysis in China
Peicheng Hu

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Abstract: Aim: introduce the history and present status of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in China. Method: use the retroview research and analysis method. Result: psychotherapy has a long history and short present in China.

Conclusion: psychotherapy and psychoanalysis should be developed fast.

Key Word: Psychotherapy Psychoanalysis China



China is a five-thousand year civilization history country in the world. Because of the obsturate policy and standpat idea in the long past feudal society and Chinese language big different with the western language , Chinese scientist had few opportunities in exchanging ideas and cooperation with the other country’s professional in the world, especially in the fields of psychology and psychotherapy. From the end of 1970’s, China began to "open the door" and reform the economics , Chinese experts have more opportunities to attend the international conference, cooperation with other countries in the world. China is going to integrate into the world and the world is coming to understand the secret China. In this paper, I wish to introduce some of Chinese history and present of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis.

Chinese Traditional Psychotherapy

Same as Chinese traditional medicine, there were 2000 year’s history of psychotherapy in China. According to the record in the different books, there were 600 cases about psychotherapy reported[1].

1. Basic theory of Chinese traditional psychotherapy

There were rich theory models in Chinese traditional psychotherapy history. Some of the theories had greater influence to present China.

(1) Holistic View---"Tian Ren He Yi"

According to the record in some books, such as "Yi Zhuan" which wrote by the ancient Chinese philosophy and psychology experts: "Tian Ren He Yi" or "Tian Ren Xiang Ying", that means human being should correspond with "sky"(nature, environment), or human body should be considered as a whole body within the whole nature and environment. This view pointed out that we must pay attention to the factor of nature and environment which it gave the great influence to the human being’s psychological health. It is similar as that in the modern research---ecosystem has the close relationship with human being’s psychological health.

(2) Body Mind View---"Xin Shen Xiang Ji"

In the early Qin Dynasty, Dr. Xunzi pointed out that " Physical strong(Shen) and mental health(Xin) are same important to the human body". So they realized that in or der to cure the disease, doctor couldn’t only treat the physical body, but also treat the mind at same time. It is similar as the view of treating psychosomatic diseases in present society.

(3) The Medical Model---"Yi Guo---Yi Ren---Yi Bing"

Dr. Sun Simiao from Tang Dynasty point out in the Book <<Qianjin Yao Fang>> " the best doctor’s work is to treat the society(Guo)---social factor, the better doctor’s work is to treat the patient(Ren)---psychological factor, the good doctor’s work is to treat the disease(Bing)---physical factor. This bio-psycho-social medical model is 1000 years earlier that Dr. Engel’s medical model pointed out in 1977.

(4) The Doctor Patient Model---"Biao Ben Xiang De"

In the recording of "The Yellow Emperor Inner Classic"---the first Chinese medical book: "Patient should be considered as the Ben---means center, doctor as the Biao means the assistant". This model is similar as the view of "Person Center" school in the present psychotherapy.

2. Chinese traditional methods of psychotherapy

Under the guidance of above views and models, in the old Chinese history, there were several psychotherapies used widely in the society.

(1) "Kai Dao Quan Wei Fa"

This method’s key is "Gao"(talk) , "Yu"(speak clearly), "Dao"(guide), "Kai"(point out). For example, Dr. Wu Ke treated the Chuguo’s prince with the method of "Kai Dao Quan Wei Fa" to let him give up the bad life style and cure the disease of neurosis. It is similar with the modern supportive psychotherapy.

(2)"Yi Qing Sheng Qing Fa"

This method’s process is using one emotion to cure another emotion disorder. The efforts reason is according to the 5 phases theory in Chinese traditional medicine: anger can conquer over thinking, sadness can conquer over anger, happiness can conquer over sadness and so on. For example: Dr. Huatuo in Sanguo Dynasty, he wrote a letter in which there were a lot of bad words to let the patient angry, then the patient vomited "black constant blood" and the disease had gone.

(3) "Xi Jian Xi Wen Fa"

This method’s key is to ask the patient gradually to be accustomed with the sensitive or fear situation. For example, Dr. Zhang Zihe in Jin Dynasty, stroke the tea table to let a woman recovered from sound phobia. It is similar with the modern behavior desensitization.

(4) "Yi Qi Zhi Qi Fa"

This method’s key is to use deceiving to treat the abnormal behavior. For example, Dr. Zhang Jingyue in Ming Dynasty made the patient to produce jealous to cure the disease of hypochondriasis. It is similar with the modern placebo suggestion therapy.

(5) "Xiao Chou Yi Yue Fa"

This method’s key is to ask the patient to do the happy activities to remove the bad emotion. Such as Dr. Wu Shiji in Qing Dynasty, asked the patient to do the entertainment, play, drawing, chest, watching performance and so on to treat the emotion disorder. It is similar with the modern music or play therapy.

Excepting above methods, there were some other methods which were used in the treatment to diseases with psychotherapy, such as "Yi Qing Bian Qi Fa"( that is to divert patient’s attention from some pain to talking, dancing and so on to stimulate the patient’s potential to fight disease), "Qi Gong Dao Ying Fa"(that is through 260 kinds DaoYing methods to regulate people’s mind and body), "Tu Ran Ci Ji Fa"( that is through sudden stimulation to treat the physical and mental disorder), "Zhen Jiu Ci Liao Fa" (that is through acupuncture and moxibustion to smooth the channel’s Qi and blood ,then resulted in good health).

Psychoanalysis in China

In 1917, Pao Chang introduced psychoanalysis theory into China.

In 1925, Dr. Li Qichu ,in 1926 Dr. Xie Xunchu wrote papers to introduce "dream explanation" and "free association" technique on the " Journal of Eastern".

In 1933, Dr. Dai Bingheng as the first psychoanalysis therapist gave the first teaching course in Peking Union Hospital. [2]

In 1960’s , Dr. Zhong Youbin and Dr. Wang Jingxiang made the big efforts to treat the patients who suffered from phobia and compulsive with classic psychoanalysis.

In 1988, <<Chinese Psychoanalysis---Cognition and comprehension psychotherapy>>as the first book about the psychoanalysis in China was published by Dr. Zhong Youbing. Dr. Zhong Youbing is still alive and as the pioneer expert in psychoanalysis in China.

In 1983, 3 cases about phobia which was treated with psychoanalysis were reported by Dr. Yang Huayu.

In 1990, Several cases about cross-culture disorder were treated by psychoanalysis reported from Dr. Cui Yuhua and Dr. Lu Qiuyun on the "Journal of Chinese Mental Health".

The other papers such as : Hu Gaoshen’s "Freud’s psychoanalysis on the young-adults prisoners", Sun Qingsheng’s "Psychoanalysis and psycho-supportive in the treatment of sexual disorder" and Dr. Meng Xianzhang’s "A patient who suffered from insomnia was treated by psychoanalysis" were all paid attention to the public in Chinese society.

According to the report by Dr. Zhong Youbing’s statistics from 78 papers which published in some of journals, 12 papers which had the contents involve in psychoanalysis occupied 18% of the whole psychotherapy research papers---the second large amount in the whole psychotherapy papers. [3]

Table 1: Psychotherapy Methods in the Papers from 1979 to1990

Professor Gong Yaoxian had the wide investigation to the status of psychological test and psychotherapy from 30 provinces and cities in 1994 to 1995, published an article "The Survey and the Prospect to Clinical Psychology". In this paper, he pointed out there were 7 common psychotherapy methods in China: behavior, cognitive, supportive, psychoanalysis, morita , biofeedback and hypnosis. Psychoanalysis is as the fourth method to be used commonly. Psychoanalysis can be used in compulsive, depression, schizophrenia,and sexual disorder. [4] See the table 2.

Table 2 Cases Statistics of Psychotherapy to Mental Disorders

The Rule about Psychotherapist and Psychotherapy

Until now, Chinese government didnt have any rule about the license for psychological test and psychotherapy. Now the persons who are engaging psychological counseling and psychotherapy are very complex. According to the survey in 1993[5], the workers who are doing psychotherapy: 76.3---87.5% from medical background, 2.3---8.3% from psychology background. See the table 3 as follows:

Table 3.The present status of Psychotherapist in China

There were two rules published by Chinese Mental Health Society and Chinese Psychology Association in Oct. 1992. Because these rules were not from government, so it hadn’t any binding force. In the two rules, they pointed out that everyone who engaged in psychotherapy should have the degree of bachelor and half year clinical work under the supervision. These two rules didn’t spread, but they gave the signal that we will carry out the license’ system in the future.

The Prospect of Chinese Psychotherapy

In 1950’s, "Wu Jian Therapy" performed by Dr. Li Xintian, and got the good results to the neurosis. In 1980’s, Dr. Chen Peizhang in Xian, Dr. Zhao Gengyuan in Guangzhou, Dr. Yang Huayu , Wang Xiaodao and I in Beijing started to open the clinic for psychological counseling and psychotherapy. Right now there are many psychological clinics were set up all over the country. In Shanghai, Wuhan and Tianjing, there were big buildings of hospitals for doing psychotherapy established and got good reputation in China.

There are two directions which are important in psychotherapy that we must pay attention to develop.

1. Western psychotherapy combined with eastern health practice

The modern psychotherapy methods are mostly produced from western country. The ancient eastern health practice had the magic results to the whole world. For example, Laozi’s "Wu Wei" philosophy and Chanzong’s "Chaotuo" thinking all gave the great influence to the psychotherapy in the world. Eastern and western methods in psychotherapy should be combined together. [6]

2. Widely engaged in the research and practice of psychoanalysis in China

Psychotherapy had 100 years history. How to use and develop this method in China? To translate more good books about psychoanalysis into Chinese , let more and more people know what is the real psychoanalysis, then practice and thinking by ourselves. Chinese clinical psychologist and psychoanalysis therapists should give more contribution in psychotherapy to the world.


Yang Xinhui(1995): "The research of Chinese traditional psychotherapy", Nanjing Normal University Bulletin, No. 4, p50-55

Chen Zhonggeng(1998): "Psychological counseling and psychotherapy", <<Chinese Psychology Science>>, Jilin People Press, p932-949

Zhong Youbin(1991): " The guideline of Chinese psychological counseling and psychotherapy", Journal of Chinese Mental Health, No.1, p38-40

Gong Yaoxian(1996): "The survey to the present status of Chinese clinical psychology", Journal of Chinese Clinical Psychology, No. 4, p1-9

Gong Yaoxian (1993): "The history and present of Chinese clinical psychology ", Journal of Chinese Clinical Psychology, No.1, p1-3

Li Xintian(1998): "Medical Psychology", Beijing Medical University Press , p 875-881

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Número 13 - Julio 2001