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Russell, G.I. (2019). Review of The Digital Age on the Couch by Alessandra Lemma. New York: NY: Routledge, 2017. 164 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 55(1-2):132-138.

(2019). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 55(1-2):132-138

Review of The Digital Age on the Couch by Alessandra Lemma. New York: NY: Routledge, 2017. 164 pp.

Review by:
Gillian Isaacs Russell, Ph.D.

In The Digital Age on the Couch, Alessandra Lemma extends her central interest in embodied experience, and in particular the body in the consulting room, to consider the impact of technology on psychoanalytic practice. Her specific concern is with the ways technology may be altering psychic structure itself and the implications of this for individuals and society. She stresses that she thinks about the mediation of technology and the resulting “disintermediation of the body” as a working clinician, and the compelling clinical vignettes she intersperses throughout this slim volume add liveliness, depth, and color to her examination of this subject.

The book is divided into two sections, “Outside In” and “Inside Out.” Throughout the book, we are reminded of the need to attend to both the opportunities and risks that digital technology presents to us as clinicians and as a society.

In the first section Lemma focuses on the impact of technology on the subjective experience of embodiment, in particular the development of sexual identity in adolescence. Lemma presents two fascinating vignettes in which patients are exploring confused sexual and gender identities through “playing with reality” (p. 25) by imagining alternative embodiments and identities online. She demonstrates how important it is for the analyst to think about the patient’s use of technology not only as defensive, further confirming a clinically central insight (Essig, 2012; Turkle, 1995). The process of experimenting with imagined embodiments and then bringing that virtual experience of embodiment into the consulting room to be thought about and put into words with the analyst affords opportunities for growth.

[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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