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Dunbar, F. (1952). Technical Problems in Analysis of Psychosomatic Disorders with Special Reference to Precision in Short-Term Psychotherapy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33:385-396.

(1952). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 33:385-396

Technical Problems in Analysis of Psychosomatic Disorders with Special Reference to Precision in Short-Term Psychotherapy

Flanders Dunbar, M.D.


In this paper the purpose has been:

(1) To call attention to the need of improving precision in short-term psychotherapy, not to suggest that such therapy is suitable for all patients.

(2) To suggest a means of selecting from among a large group of persons in need of treatment, for whom psycho-analysis is impossible or undesirable, those likely to respond best to briefer methods.

(3) To point out that, in determining the treatment of choice, the psychic and somatic components in the illness syndrome must be evaluated not only quantitively but also qualitatively. The nature of the character neurosis has a bearing on physiological dysfunction; for example a compulsive character suffering from asthma needs a therapeutic regimen which is very different from that needed by a compulsive character suffering from hypertension.

(4) To illustrate the peculiar hazards inevitably encountered in short-term treatment and the reasons why some analysts hesitate to accept the responsibilities involved. Suggestions are made as to some adjustments in technique which may help in coping with the difficulties inherent in the method. These adjustments are particularly needed in the timing of appointments, the giving of interpretations, and the management of transference.

(5) To point out the service that skilled psycho-analysts may render if they are willing to direct their attention to this somewhat neglected field of research and therapy.

In conclusion it is urged that psychiatrists who undertake short-term treatment do so only on a basis of thorough training in psycho-analysis and considerable experience in its practice. Whatever his brilliance as technician, the psycho-analyst, if he is to heal, remains first of all a physician.

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