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Schafer, R. (1994). A Classic Revisited: Kurt Eissler's 'The Effect of the Structure of the Ego on Psychoanalytic Technique'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:721-728.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:721-728

A Classic Revisited: Kurt Eissler's 'The Effect of the Structure of the Ego on Psychoanalytic Technique'

Roy Schafer


Eissler's influential contribution, which introduced the idea of the parameter of technique, extended Freud's later contributions so that they would apply to thoughtful analytic work with hard-to-treat patients. Aimed at sharpening the baseline of psychoanalytic techniqueinterpretation—and differentiating ego-psychological work from Franz Alexander's modifications in particular, Eissler's 'parameter' was progressively and perversely made into a coercive, if not punitive, concept. Looking back on it now, one can see that, in addition to its merits, the paper advocates an orientation that is no longer beyond dispute. In contrast to the present pluralistic state of psychoanalytic approaches to treatment, certain aspects of Eissler's paper seem unacceptably finalistic, restrictive and uncritically committed both to assumptions about continua in development and pathological states and to an operational approach to diagnosis.

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