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Frankel, J.B. (1998). Are Interpersonal and Relational Psychoanalysis the Same?. Contemp. Psychoanal., 34(4):485-500.

(1998). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 34(4):485-500

Are Interpersonal and Relational Psychoanalysis the Same? Related Papers

Jay B Frankel, Ph.D.

In his thoughtful review of Lewis Aron's (1996) book, A Meeting of Minds: Mutuality in Psychoanalysis, Irwin Hirsch (1997) brings up the fascinating question—fascinating at least to those of us in a certain segment of the New York psychoanalytic world—of the difference between the labels interpersonal and relational. Hirsch sees the terms as essentially identical, at least for the many self-defined relationalists, like Aron, who attempt to integrate a core interpersonal theory with an intersubjective or perspectivist point of view. Current-day interpersonalists, Hirsch says, have generally abandoned the positivism and the authoritative stance of Sullivan and the early interpersonalists, leaving little or no difference between them and this group of relational psychoanalysts. The label one chooses to describe one's approach, Hirsch suggests, is essentially a political choice, not a theoretical one, based on one's loyalties and professional identifications. But is this really the case?

I think this is to a large degree so—if one looks only at the core theory that each group claims to be guided by. We all accept the proposition that personality and psychopathology are largely shaped through one's interactions with other people. We all, to greater or lesser extents, subscribe

1 Relational psychoanalysis” is a broad umbrella that includes various theoretical outlooks, but with the common threads of placing one's interpersonal history as the primary determinant of personality and psychopathology, and placing the conscious and especially the unconscious relationship between patient and analyst at the heart of the therapeutic effect.

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