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Strachey, J. (1934). The Nature of the Therapeutic Action of Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 15:127-159.

(1934). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 15:127-159

The Nature of the Therapeutic Action of Psycho-Analysis Language Translation

James Strachey

Introductory

It was as a therapeutic procedure that psycho-analysis originated. It is in the main as a therapeutic agency that it exists to-day. We may well be surprised, therefore, at the relatively small proportion of psycho-analytical literature which has been concerned with the mechanisms by which its therapeutic effects are achieved. A very considerable quantity of data have been accumulated in the course of the last thirty or forty years which throw light upon the nature and workings of the human mind; perceptible progress has been made in the task of classifying and subsuming such data into a body of generalized hypotheses or scientific laws. But there has been a remarkable hesitation in applying these findings in any great detail to the therapeutic process itself. I cannot help feeling that this hesitation has been responsible for the fact that so many discussions upon the practical details of analytic technique seem to leave us at cross-purposes and at an inconclusive end. How, for instance, can we expect to agree upon the vexed question of whether and when we should give a 'deep interpretation', while we have no clear idea of what we mean by a 'deep interpretation', while, indeed, we have no exactly formulated view of the concept of 'interpretation' itself, no precise knowledge of what 'interpretion' is and what effect it has upon our patients? We should gain much, I think, from a clearer grasp of problems such as this. If we could arrive at a more detailed understanding of the workings of the therapeutic process we should be less prone to those occasional feelings of utter disorientation which few analysts are fortunate enough to escape; and the analytic movement itself might be less at the mercy of proposals for abrupt alterations in the ordinary technical procedure—proposals which derive much of their strength from the prevailing uncertainty as to the exact nature of the analytic

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1 Portions of this paper were read at a meeting of the British Psycho-Analytical Society on June 13, 1933.

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