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Kächele, H. (2001). Does Psychoanalysis Work? Robert M. Galatzer-Levy, Henry Bachrach, Alan Skolnikoff, and Sherwood Waldron. New Haven: Yale University Press, 320 pp., $40.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 49(3):1041-1047.

(2001). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 49(3):1041-1047

Does Psychoanalysis Work? Robert M. Galatzer-Levy, Henry Bachrach, Alan Skolnikoff, and Sherwood Waldron. New Haven: Yale University Press, 320 pp., $40.00.

Review by:
Horst Kächele

Psychoanalytic outcome research got off to a good start when the Berlin Institute commissioned Fenichel and his colleagues to prepare an evaluation of therapeutic outcomes. In 1930 they jointly and proudly published their report. Things looked less cheerful when Eysenck (1952) published a very negative evaluation of the Berlin data. Bergin (1971), however, summarized his own evaluation of the Berlin data as follows: The four divergent but equally reasonable tabulations of the Berlin data clearly establish my point that there is no valid way to assess the effect of psychoanalysis from the information available. I can see no clear justification for choosing one interpretation over another, even though I do have personal biases in certain directions. The ambiguity in these data cannot be resolved (p. 225).

Bergin's careful and sophisticated evaluation contained some other observations, namely that the divergence of the tabulations was more pronounced with regard to the psychoanalytic treatments than to the more eclectic therapies. Even though Bergin does not identify himself as a friend of psychoanalysis, he concludes that the results up to 1952, when Eysenck published his paper, must be considered encouraging, if not dramatic: It is of particular interest, however, that the longer and more intensive the treatment, the better the results (p. 227).

Now we are in the year 2001, thirty years later. Why are we still in doubt about the outcome of psychoanalytic therapies? In their introduction, the authors of this timely book state that over the past thirty years psychoanalysis has lost much status. No longer the sole rational therapy for psychological distress, today it competes with many other treatments (p. x).

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