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Fisher, C.P. (2006). Impossible Training: A Relational View of Psychoanalytic Education By Emanuel Berman, Hillsdale, N. J. and London: The Analytic Press, 2004; 279 pp.. Fort Da, 12(2):79-87.

(2006). Fort Da, 12(2):79-87

Book Reviews

Impossible Training: A Relational View of Psychoanalytic Education By Emanuel Berman, Hillsdale, N. J. and London: The Analytic Press, 2004; 279 pp.

Reviewed by
Charles P. Fisher, M.D.

Emanuel Berman's book calls for dramatic changes in psychoanalytic education. The most notable are radical corrections of the power dynamics that have afflicted psychoanalytic training institutions in the past. Starting with Freud and his Secret Committee, the society of the secret ring, top-down power dynamics have led to paranoid and realistic fears among psychoanalytic candidates and, all too often, the creation of what Berman calls a “false analytic self.”

Impossible Training is more than a book about psychoanalytic education, although it is certainly valuable for anyone involved in psychoanalytic training as an educator or a student. Many readers will appreciate this book for its insightful view of contemporary problems in psychoanalytic education, and for its intelligent recommendations for reform. However, the real power of the book lies in the fact that Berman's ideas about psychoanalytic education are grounded in a thoughtful systematic view of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic training. In fast-moving chapters, full of clinical examples and provocative ideas, Emanuel Berman assembles a coherent account, integrating contributions to psychoanalytic theory, history, epistemology, methodology, and clinical theory with a study of psychoanalytic institutions and training. Berman's stance is relational in a broad sense of the word — he adds a relational point of view to his overall examination of psychoanalytic theory, rather than rewriting or erasing pre-existing models.

In this review, I'll try to summarize and evaluate Berman's major contributions, but first a few general observations. An outstanding characteristic throughout is that Berman is both innovative and respectful of history.

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