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Freud, A. (1965). Diagnostic Skills and their Growth in Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:31-38.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:31-38

Diagnostic Skills and their Growth in Psycho-Analysis

Anna Freud


In his paper, 'Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology' (1950), Heinz Hartmann gives expression to the revolutionary view that

… we come to the conclusion that psychoanalytic psychology is not limited to what can be gained through the use of the psychoanalytic method.

He elaborates further on this when he discusses the developmental studies which

will of necessity lead to a growing awareness of the sign- or signal-function which behaviour details may have for the observer that is, to a better or more systematic understanding of how data of direct observation can be used as indicators of structurally central and partly unconscious developments—in a sense that by far transcends the possibilities of sign interpretation accessible to the various methods of testing.

The article which follows here pursues the same line of thought by showing how data derived from surface observation of the child can prove useful for diagnosing the patient's state, at a time before analytic exploration has been decided on, and how they can help in the decision for or against analytic treatment. On the other hand, analysts are warned not to mistake such observations for technical devices which can serve analytic interpretation, and to trace and respect the limits within which this 'sign- and signal-function of behaviour' operates legitimately.


During his period of learning in a recognized psycho-analytic Training Institute, every psycho-analyst is expected to acquire sufficient theoretical insight to describe his patients in the light of their individual histories, the origin of their disturbances, their internal conflicts, the relative strength of their id and ego forces, their character structures and their adaptations to or clashes with the environment.

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