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Cooper, S.H. (2016). A review of Relational Freedom: Emergent Properties of the Interpersonal Field. Contemp. Psychoanal., 52(2):313-323.

(2016). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 52(2):313-323

A review of Relational Freedom: Emergent Properties of the Interpersonal Field

Steven H. Cooper, Ph.D.

A review of Relational Freedom: Emergent Properties of the Interpersonal Field by Donnel Stern. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015. 272 pp.

Donnel Stern's Relational Freedom: Emergent Properties of the Interpersonal Field is a tour de force in at least two dimensions. Readers interested in comparative models of the field concept will learn from Stern's ability to incisively lay out areas of overlap and divergence among the numerous analysts who find the field concept indispensable to their work. In another dimension, Stern develops his concept of relational freedom in ways that expand and deepen his depictions of both therapeutic process and therapeutic action.

These two strands work well in conjunction with one another and for me are the cohesive thread that unites these essays. Stern's personal use of the field concept is apparent in his clinical chapters describing “relational freedom.” We can see in real time how he both overlaps and diverges from Bionian field theory, particularly regarding the use of the analyst's self and the analyst's interpretive authority.

My approach in this brief review will be to capture some of the highlights of these two directions rather than describing in detail the 11 chapters in the book. I have left out some truly compelling chapters dealing with the difficult to reach patient, the nature of unconscious phantasy, views on hermeneutics and quantitative psychotherapy research, and the intrinsic cultural and ideological conflicts between varying ideas about psychoanalytic theory and education in psychoanalytic institutes.

[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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