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Spence, D.P. (1982). On Some Clinical Implications of Action Language. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 30:169-184.

(1982). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 30:169-184

On Some Clinical Implications of Action Language Related Papers

Donald P. Spence, Ph.D.


Schafer's action language can be criticized on purely theoretical grounds; here, the emphasis is on some of its clinical implications. First, action language tends to put the patient into an adversary position with respect to the analyst; this interferes with the therapeutic alliance, discourages regression, and encourages self-consciousness and problem-solving reasoning. Second, action language tempts the analyst to use premature labels in place of ambiguous metaphors; premature clarification may undercut the process of analytic discovery. Third, a focus on action and responsibility, because it highlights conscious mechanisms and the secondary process, may run the danger of working against the analytic process. It may yield rationalization rather than insight and convey the message that the analyst does not take seriously the concept of the unconscious. Fourth, by emphasizing clarity in favor of metaphor, action language may put

an unnecessary emphasis on rationality and may discourage the kind of groping self-exploration that is the essence of productive analysis.

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