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Yorke, C. (1983). Anna Freud and the Psychoanalytic Study and Treatment of Adults. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 64:391-400.

(1983). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 64:391-400

Anna Freud and the Psychoanalytic Study and Treatment of Adults

Clifford Yorke

I first encountered Anna Freud's approach to the analysis of adults when, as a student at the Institute of Psycho-Analysis in London, I attended her clinical seminars. Whereas many seminar leaders expected the student to present the group with the problems and difficulties with which he and his patients were struggling, Anna Freud's approach was a different one. For while she still expected the student, in presenting clinical material, to bring to the group a clinical problem, she also expected him to show how he had managed to solve it.

This reversal of the customary procedure had some interesting consequences. If the expectations were high, we certainly felt obliged to try to meet them: and, if the work was hard, we felt encouraged to find things out for ourselves. But what, I think, surprised us all was that we had overcome certain clinical difficulties, if only for a time. And that, at least, was good for our morale.

There was one thing that we often failed to do. We were not always able to conceptualize the process by which a clinical hurdle had apparently been surmounted. It was here that the teaching method was particularly successful. Not only did we learn to conceptualize on the basis of clinical experience but, in doing so, were offered a model of rigorous clinical thinking. Anna Freud's disciplined arguments were indeed austere; but the austerity was matched by an engaging encouragement which suggested that the student's powers of conceptualization might be greater than he or she had supposed.

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