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Spurling, L.S. (2008). Is There Still a Place for the Concept of ‘Therapeutic Regression’ in Psychoanalysis?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 89(3):523-540.

(2008). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 89(3):523-540

Is There Still a Place for the Concept of ‘Therapeutic Regression’ in Psychoanalysis? Language Translation

Laurence S. Spurling

The author uses his own failure to find a place for the idea of therapeutic regression in his clinical thinking or practice as the basis for an investigation into its meaning and usefulness. He makes a distinction between three ways the term ‘regression’ is used in psychoanalytic discourse: as a way of evoking a primitive level of experience; as a reminder in some clinical situations of the value of non-intervention on the part of the analyst; and as a description of a phase of an analytic treatment with some patients where the analyst needs to put aside normal analytic technique in order to foster a regression in the patient. It is this third meaning, which the author terms “therapeutic regression” that this paper examines, principally by means of an extended discussion of two clinical examples of a patient making a so-called therapeutic regression, one given by Winnicott and the other by Masud Khan. The author argues that in these examples the introduction of the concept of therapeutic regression obscures rather than clarifies the clinical process. He concludes that, as a substantial clinical concept, the idea of therapeutic regression has outlived its usefulness. However he also notes that many psychoanalytic writers continue to find a use for the more generic concept of regression, and that the very engagement with the more particular idea of therapeutic regression has value in provoking questions as to what is truly therapeutic in psychoanalytic treatment.

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