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Few rooms loom as large in the popular psyche as the shrink’s office. Stephanie d’Arc Taylor considers the couch where it all began.

Lie back, close your eyes andconjure a scene of psychoanalysis. Most likely, a couch is there, in the middle of an expensive-looking office. The first person to come to mind (after your therapist, if you have one) might be Woody Allen. Or, perhaps, a 60-something white man stroking his beard, looking inquisitive and vaguely alarmed.

The therapeutic couch was first utilized in the 1890s by Sigmund Freud, the Austrian founder of psychoanalysis (and archetype of our beardy, bespectacled intellectual above). Since then, the humble piece of furniture has become so associated with psychotherapy that the phrase “on the couch” has come to signify the practice. But the couch has traditionally been more a means to an end, rather than something valuable in itself, says Dr. Mark Gerald on the phone from his practice in,

  • Words:
    Stephanie d’Arc Taylor
  • Photograph:
    Freud Museum London

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  • Words:
    Stephanie d’Arc Taylor
  • Photograph:
    Freud Museum London
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