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Tabachnick, N.D. (1978). Innovation in the Psychoanalytic Institute. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 6(2):119-121.

(1978). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 6(2):119-121

Innovation in the Psychoanalytic Institute

Norman D. Tabachnick

Most analysts agree that both the traditional and the innovative points of view are valuable. (By innovative, I mean challenging traditional “principles,” trying to understand and test new therapies from the psychoanalytic point of view, and like matters.) Traditional points of view have been tested for long periods and in some ways we “know” with what they are correlated, but most of them have not been proved so they should be challenged. New techniques and new therapies may add to theory or therapy or both. It is important that traditionalists and innovators maintain a dialogue. Any person can be excessive in enthusiasm or have blind spots.

Although theoretically the above position is generally accepted, practically it often is not. Of particular interest is the question, Should both the traditional and the innovative points of view be represented in the institutes? Since in all institutes I know the traditional point of view is heavily represented, we should focus more on the question of, Should the innovative point of view be heavily represented?

The resistances to innovation may be divided into two groups.

One type of objection relies heavily on tradition and seniority. When an innovation arises, authoritarian or senior analysts state that it is not “analytic.” If they cite evidence, it is often to quote earlier prominent analysts whose position was (or could be interpreted to be) against the innovation. (Since imaginative and prolific analysts — like Freud — stated numerous opinions, some in favor of, some against certain positions, it is often possible to find almost any point of view one wishes supported by an “authority.” In such cases, only the “against” statements are quoted. In fairness it must be said that innovators may use the same tactics.)

Some examples of these controversies may be found in the history of psychoanalytic research methodology. The earliest and traditional psychoanalytic research model is the report of a clinical psychoanalysis. As modifications of this model have been proposed, they have encountered vigorous opposition. Two lines of opposition have developed, based on some opinions of Freud.

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