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Field, N. (1990). The Symposium A Post-Platonic Dialogue on the Nature of Psychotherapy. Brit. J. Psychother., 7(2):141-147.

(1990). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 7(2):141-147

The Symposium A Post-Platonic Dialogue on the Nature of Psychotherapy

Nathan Field

When the funeral service for Dr W- was over, five mourners adjourned to the large Victorian pub adjacent to the Crematorium. Although strangers to one another they shared one significant characteristic: each had for many years been in analysis with the late Dr W-. At this hour the upper lounge stood empty and therefore it was possible to speak freely. Mr A-, who had taken the initiative to invite the others, raised his glass in welcome:

‘This is indeed a unique occasion. I confess I find it strange and even moving to meet face to face those whose existence I previously knew of only by the ring of the doorbell or the distant click on the latch. I address you as strangers and yet I am inclined to look on you as members of my family, discovered only in the hour of our bereavement. I -.’

At this point Mr B-, more inclined to argument than sentiment, interrupted him: 'What you say presupposes that you saw the doctor as some sort of parent. Before I am enlisted in a family I had not expected to join, let me hasten to declare that I never did. For me he was always simply the “doctor” and I the “patient”. I brought him my illness, he provided the remedy, and for that I paid him his fee. It was a purely professional arrangement.

‘I am aware,’ he continued, 'that his treatment was of rather a special kind and that the instrument of his cure was neither the knife nor the bottle but word of mouth. By registering precisely the words I used he could identify the submerged areas of my disturbance with the accuracy of an echo sounder.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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