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Balint, M. (1950). Changing Therapeutical Aims and Techniques in Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 31:117-124.

(1950). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 31:117-124

Changing Therapeutical Aims and Techniques in Psycho-Analysis

Michael Balint


I think it may be taken for granted that every analyst is at pains to learn from his own technical errors and mistakes. Conversely, this means that our individual technique is continually changing through gradually accumulating individual experience—let us hope, for the better. Are we justified in assuming that this is also true of psycho-analytical technique in general? Is the therapeutic work of the rank and file analyst of to-day different from that of his colleague of say thirty, twenty, or even ten years ago? and if so, what is the difference and what has brought it about? As the title of my paper suggests, my contention is that psycho-analytic technique has changed, in fact has been changing continuously, ever since its first description by Freud in the technical chapter of the Studies in Hysteria.

To put this process into true perspective, the survey ought to start with the techniques (in the plural) described by Breuer and Freud in their book. For the sake of brevity, however, I shall restrict myself to that part of the history of the technique which is contemporary with my analytical lifetime.

When I started to practise psycho-analysis (in 1922), the whole of our thinking was under the influence of two momentous works of Freud's: From the History of an Infantile Neurosis and Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Theoretically the aim of all psycho-analytical therapy was defined by Freud—for all time to come, as we thought then—in his three famous synonymous formulæ: 'overcoming the patient's resistance', 'removal of infantile amnesia', and 'making the unconscious conscious'.

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