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Gray, P. (1965). Limitations of Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 13:181-190.

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(1965). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 13:181-190

Limitations of Psychoanalysis

Paul Gray, M.D.

Arnold Z. Pfeffer called attention to the fact that this was the first panel of the American Psychoanalytic Association specifically directed to the subject of limitations. Freud's classical paper, "Analysis Terminable and Interminable," is the main contribution to this problem. Pfeffer clarified the scope of the panel by defining some perspectives suggested by the title of the panel. He stated that attention would be concentrated upon the limits of psychoanalysis in achieving therapeutic and intrapsychic change.

While the subject matter might be divided into limitations in patients and those in the analyst, the panel's chief purpose was to explore limitations in the therapeutic and intrapsychic changes brought about by the analytic process. Pfeffer felt that the analytic process lends itself to such consideration only if the entire analytic situation is taken into account, that is, the specific arrangement between patient and analyst which brings about the analytic process. The analytic process may be understood as a function of the interaction between the two—analyst and patient Thus, limitations of the analytic process and hence of therapeutic and intrapsychic change depend upon limitations of the interaction between analyst and patient. Bearing in mind that at one level therapeutic change based on intrapsychic change arises from the resolution of psychic conflict, a focus suggests itself for discussion—limitations of the degree to which conflicts can be resolved.

While Freud's later observations were viewed by some as indicating pessimism regarding the therapeutic possibilities of analysis, Pfeffer preferred to view these observations as realistic rather than pessimistic.

In order to provide a fresh background for the discussion of limitations, Robert S. Wallerstein presented a paper, "The Goals of Psychoanalysis: A Survey of Analytic Viewpoints." This important survey, the only formal presentation at the panel, stimulated much of the day's discussion.

While he called attention to a number of the technical and theoretical


Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Los Angeles, May, 1964. Chairman: Arnold Z. Pfeffer, M.D.

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