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Burton, A. (1966). Therapeutic Interruption: Planned and Unplanned. Am. J. Psychoanal., 26:81-87.

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(1966). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 26:81-87

Therapeutic Interruption: Planned and Unplanned

Arthur Burton, Ph.D. Author Information

Not much is known as to why a patient in long-term psychotherapy or psychoanalysis suddenly fails to keep his appointment and terminates treatment; or why a particular patient fails to improve with a highly qualified psychotherapist, but does improve—sometimes remarkably—with one obviously inferior in training. In the same vein, do we know the specific circumstances by which we are impelled to refer a patient in the midst of a long-term psychotherapy to another psychotherapist? These and similar questions were posed by the referral of mid-stream patients to me, by my referral of such patients to others, and by the self-referral of patients who had abruptly left psychotherapists whom I greatly respected. I generically call these situations Therapeutic Departures. This paper is an attempt to define the parameters involved in such departures, and while I am not satisfied that I have reached understanding of them, the following observations may possibly be useful to psychotherapists.

The selection and retention of the long-term patient follows the laws of similarity and dissimilarity, that is, congruence. By this I mean the similarities and dissimilarities of the unconscious structure of the two participants. It would of course be absurd to say that no patients can be given psychotherapy without such a congruence. But in the treatment of a chronic schizophrenic patient, for example, it cannot be expected that both participants could meet and handle the often bone-breaking

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