Photograph of psychoanalyst Horacio Etchegoyen

Horacio Etchegoyen

Beginnings in psychoanalysis

Ricardo Horacio Etchegoyen (1919-2016), known as Horacio Etchegoyen, was born in Buenos Aires. The son of a doctor, he never got to know his father, who died when he was seven months old. Etchegoyen initially intended to pursue a career in law like his godfather but, in part influenced by his brother’s medical studies, he soon developed an interest in becoming a doctor. In 1938 he began his medical degree at the University of La Plata, just outside Buenos Aires.

While studying medicine, Etchegoyen grew fascinated by psychiatry and decided to specialise in it. From this interest in psychiatry he then discovered psychoanalysis, and made contact with the recently formed Argentinian Psychoanalytic Association (APA), whose president, Enrique Pichon Rivière, became his first psychoanalytic teacher. Etchegoyen’s first personal analysis was with Lucio Raskovsky, but this did not prove very fruitful and stopped after a year. He then entered into an analysis with Polish-Argentine psychoanalyst Heinrich Racker, a much more successful analytic relationship that lasted seven years (1950-1957) and continued to influence Etchegoyen’s work and ideas throughout his life. In his own words: “the central figure in my psychoanalytic training was Racker.”

The influence of Melanie Klein

By his own admission, Etchegoyen started his psychoanalytic career as a staunch Freudian. As he began to read Klein’s work, however, he became more and more influenced by her theories, particularly her conception of envy. He began to teach Klein’s work in his post as Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Cuyo in Mendoza, where he taught from 1957 until 1965, and where he founded what is now the Mendoza Psychoanalytic Society. He came to believe that Klein was “actually the key figure in psychoanalysis.” Her theory of envy was especially important in the formulation of Etchegoyen’s own ideas on theory and technique.

A year in London

Despite being well liked and respected by his colleagues and students in Mendoza, Etchegoyen was finally pushed out as Professor of Psychiatry by the university establishment. Highly religious, conservative and reactionary, they liked neither his liberal politics nor his work in psychoanalysis. The next year, in 1966, Etchegoyen received a grant to carry out research at the Tavistock clinic in London. The grant was awarded by the World Health Organization, which was very impressed with his work in psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

Etchegoyen travelled to London with his wife Elida and their two youngest children, and spent a productive and interesting year in analysis with Donald Meltzer. He became involved with a group of eminent Kleinians: Betty Joseph, Hanna Segal, Herbert Rosenfeld, Esther Bick and Roger Money-Kyrle. Etchegoyen was more than ever influenced by Klein’s theories (though was disappointed by how factional and rivalrous the London Kleinians still were with the Anna Freudians). Etchegoyen considered Money-Kyrle in particular to be one of the most influential people in his life. He returned to Argentina after a year in London and joined the Argentine Psychiatric Association, where he provided training to doctoral students for many years.

The later years

In 1993 Etchegoyen was elected president of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), the first Latin American analyst to hold the post. He is considered one of the most important psychoanalytic thinkers to have come out of Latin America, and had a significant impact on psychoanalysis there and around the world. He continued to treat patients, give papers and attend conferences up until 2008.

He died in 2016 in Buenos Aires, at the age of 97, surrounded by family and close friends.

Eleanor Sawbridge Burton, 2015 (revised 2016)


Key publications

1991 Etchegoyen, R. H. The Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique. Karnac.