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Gedo, J.E. (1998). Understanding Therapeutic Action: Psychodynamic Concepts of Cure. Edited by Lawrence E. Lifson. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1996, viii + 251 pp., $42.50. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(3):983-986.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(3):983-986

Understanding Therapeutic Action: Psychodynamic Concepts of Cure. Edited by Lawrence E. Lifson. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1996, viii + 251 pp., $42.50

Review by:
John E. Gedo

Like most edited compendia, this volume is heterogeneous in a number of ways. It comprises fourteen essays, nine of which are contributed by Boston authors; these range from complex theses addressed to theoreticians to elementary expositions suitable for beginners in the psychotherapeutic arena. Probably as a result, there are also startling disparities in style, from lucidity to a pretentiousness I was barely able to comprehend. Some chapters deal with psychoanalysis, some with psychotherapy; others fail to make a distinction between the two. Finally, some of the essays depart from the ostensible subject matter of the book, that of the curative factor(s) in psychoanalytic treatment.

For readers of this journal, the hypotheses proposed about the operations that bring about lasting changes in mental function in psychoanalysis proper constitute the crux of the matter, and I shall confine my discussion to those proposals. Be it noted that the subject is tackled by contributors from several schools of psychoanalysis; despite a large measure of consensus among their theories of therapeutic action, some of these sectarians write as if their faction possessed a monopoly of psychoanalytic knowledge and wisdom.

I was surprised and gratified to find that not a single contributor believes that the provision of interpretations is sufficient to achieve structural change. This constitutes a decisive shift of opinion since 1979, when I published Beyond Interpretation, a monograph devoted to the detailed exposition of that thesis.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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