Tora Sandström was one of the very first psychoanalysts in Sweden. She established her own private psychotherapy clinic in the 1930s.
Tora Sandström was born in Arnäs in Ångermanland. She came from a family of farmers, and her parents’ names were Johan and Katarina Charlotta. Tora Sandström was educated at Högre lärarinneseminariet (the advanced teacher training programme) and worked as a teacher in both Hamburg and in Sweden. She gained further education in the fields of philosophy and psychoanalysis. Although she passed her licentiate exam she never defended a thesis.
Tora Sandström was fascinated by psychoanalysis and spent the 1920s and early 1930s living in Vienna, where she studied the subject. On her return to Stockholm she continued her studies. She underwent so-called “training analysis” with Alfhild Tamm and was involved in setting up the Finsk-Svensk psykoanalytiska föreningen (the Finno-Swedish psychoanalysis association) in 1934. The Svenska psykoanalytiska föreningen (the Swedish psychoanalysis association) was initially a very small group and in the 1940s Tora Sandström was one of its relatively few consistently active members, as shown in the minutes of the group’s meetings. Due to her lack of medical training she was considered a lay analyst. During the 1940s she would give lectures on medicinal psychology to doctors and medics at the Serafim hospital in Stockholm. She was thus active in the borderland between medicine, psychology and pedagogy. At the same time she was actively working towards influencing the medical board (then called Medicinalstyrelsen) to recognise practical clinical psychology and psychologists in their own rights and not just as an aid to medical care. Tora Sandström was not alone in pushing this agenda. Her efforts were, however, notable and significant. In 1954 the Swedish Psykologförbund (psychologists’ alliance) was established to manage issues such as training, occupational ethics and licensing.
Tora Sandström’s book En psykoanalytisk kvinnostudie: Ernst Ahlgren – Victoria Benedictsson was published by Albert Bonnier’s publishing company in 1935. The book received mixed reviews. It was promoted as somewhat seminal, but also overwhelmingly “Freudian”. Tora Sandström wanted her text to serve as the basis for a PhD at Lund University but this was not accepted. As part of her interest in philosophy, she also wrote a book entitled Begreppsanalys på avvägar, published by Natur & Kultur in 1944. It takes a critical look at the views held by her former philosophy teacher Adolf Phalén. Her second book was reviewed by international scientific journals but never gained any headway with the public. Tora Sandström also published in scientific journals the likes of Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. She also contributed to popular science publications like Själens läkarbok, 1943. Another of Tora Sandström’s books, Självhävdelse och neuros. En psykoanalytisk nyorientering was published in 1945 by Natur & Kultur. It had already been published in German six years earlier and despite later also being released by Bonnier’s it did not achieve any particular success.
In the 1930s Tora Sandström established a private clinic, where she offered psychological consultations, treatment and psychotherapy. At the time none of these concepts had generally accepted definitions and there was no legitimate training available to become either a clinical psychologist or a psychotherapist. Tora Sandström’s basic training in classical psychoanalysis derived from Sigmund Freud’s theories, concepts and methods. However, it was Alfred Adler’s individual psychology, which emphasizes people’s feelings of inferiority and sees these as a starting point for power struggles and aggression, which came to play a larger role in both her written work and her clinical practises.
Tora Sandström died in Stockholm in 1949.