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Joseph, E.D. (1980). Presidential Address: Clinical Issues in Psychoanalysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 61:1-9.

(1980). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 61:1-9

Presidential Address: Clinical Issues in Psychoanalysis

Edward D. Joseph

Freud's famous encyclopedia article defined psychoanalysis as a form of therapy, a theory of human behaviour and a method of research, suggesting that each was of equal importance. Although over the years there has been, at times, shifts in balance and emphasis in regard to these three, this basic definition can still be regarded as accurate. Often lost sight of is the fact that this definition is based upon assumptions taken for granted by those who work within the psychoanalytic field but often overlooked by those who look on from outside. The most basic assumption of this definition is that each of its three portions arises from findings in the clinical situation in which the psychoanalyst works.

Psychoanalysis developed and evolved out of clinical work and continued to be tested in clinical situations. The emerging theories to explain the various clinical phenomena were just that—ideas or concepts which do not provide answers, but rather offer explanations that open the way for further application and further investigations. That many of the theories serve just that purpose is evidenced by the expanding work that has been done over the past 75 or more years and the increasing knowledge, newer theoretical modifications, newer applications and still more expanded theoretical changes that followed. Over the years, many false theoretical starts were recommended and many blind paths were developed, only to be abandoned when they failed to stand the test of applicability in the clinical situation.

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