Henri Ey, a Bridge Between Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis

Henri Ey is the creator of a focus in psychiatry called “organodinamism”. This aims to be a synthesis of the organicist perspective and the psychoanalytic dynamic. In other words, a way of seeing, assuming and treating mental illness, as a product of biological and at the same time psychic factors.

Those who knew him, defined him as a very warm man, with excellent manners. Lover of good food, premium cigars and bullfighting. His prestige in French psychiatry is equivalent to that of Jacques Lacan in psychoanalysis.

“The use of neuroleptics never allows, therefore, to leave aside the psychotherapeutic relationship that must accompany all biological therapy in psychiatry.”

-Henri Ey-

Much of Henri Ey’s theory seeks to establish a direct connection between psychiatry and psychoanalysis. He was not a revisionist of the concepts of Sigmund Freud, but he saw them incomplete. His work seeks to broaden the perspective of both psychoanalysis and psychiatry.

The first years of Henri Ey

Henri Ey was born in a small town in the south of France, called Banyuls-dels-Aspres, on August 10, 1900. There he spent his childhood and adolescence. He came from a family of winemakers and always maintained a fond affection for the land where he was born. There he received influences from French and Spanish cultures.

His interest in the human mind was manifested from an early age. One of the most vivid memories of his childhood was the figure of a man they all called “the madman”. It caused him fear and fascination at the same time. He saw in him an enigma that he set out to decipher throughout his life.

He decided to study medicine and for that he moved to Toulouse. He obtained his medical degree in 1923. He was attracted to many courses offered at the Sorbonne and the bohemian life of the Latin Quarter. Between comings and goings, he also obtained a degree in philosophy.

Medical and psychiatric practice

During the following 10 years after graduation, Henri Ey worked as an intern at the psychiatric hospitals of La Seine, in Paris. He also worked in the services of Guiraud, Marie and Capgras.

In 1931 he began to work in the famous psychiatric hospital of Sainte-Anne. There he was a disciple of the famous Henri Claude. This was the professor of the chair of mental illnesses and the encephalon and had been the first to open the doors of the hospital to the pioneers of psychoanalysis in France. He named Ey clinic chief.

There he also met someone whom he defined as an endearing friend and, at the same time, as a staunch contradictor: Jacques Lacan. At that time, the Sainte-Anne hospital was the focus of great debates and the cradle of new clinical and investigative practices.

Bonneval and a new stage

For 1933, Henri Ey was named psychiatric director of Bonneval Hospital, in the beautiful region of the Loire castles. There he worked for the next 38 years, in an institution with the capacity to house 380 female patients. Also there he produced most of his written work.

From the beginning he implemented in Bonneval a new approach to psychiatry, based mainly on the works of Sigmund Freud and Eugene Bleuler. He defended fiercely in that hospital, and throughout his life, a humanistic emphasis on psychiatry.

In 1945, he created the journal The psychiatric evolution, an instrument that served to disseminate his thesis regarding the practice of psychiatry. In 1950, he founded the World Psychiatric Association and began organizing fabulous colloquia that brought together experts and researchers from different disciplines related to mental health.

A new approach

Henri Ey shaped a new approach to mental illness. In addition to the psychoanalytic tradition, it also accommodated in his perspective the theses of Hughlings Jackson. This had been one of the most prominent figures in neurology. From all this amalgam was born the “organodinamism”.

Ey was convinced that it was necessary to unite psychiatry and neurology. Also, integrate psychoanalysis to this perspective, to obtain an integral approach. Based on their findings, he opposed the antipsychiatry and the theses of Michel Foucault.

The psychiatric association he founded ended up being absorbed by his American counterpart, the World Psychiatric Association (WPA). Thus his intellectual inheritance was lost, which was replaced by an exclusively pharmacological approach. Henri Ey died on November 8, 1977, in the same town where he was born.