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Davidson, L. (2004). Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? by Joseph Schacter, Analytic Press, Hillsdale, NJ, 2002, 267 pp.. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 32(2):405-408.

(2004). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 32(2):405-408

Transference: Shibboleth or Albatross? by Joseph Schacter, Analytic Press, Hillsdale, NJ, 2002, 267 pp.

Review by:
Leah Davidson, M.D.

Edited by:
Joseph P. Merlino, M.D., M.P.A.

For this reviewer, this book is an example of an old French saying, which in translation states that the more things change the more they stay the same. The author's primary reason for writing this book appears to be his own need to document the shifts and changes in his own psychoanalytic beliefs, as less classical psychoanalytic approaches began to challenge his original training and clinical practice. In doing so, he has chosen to look at the concept of transference in the light of Ethel Person's 1993 statement that the analysis of transference had even then replaced dream analysis as “the royal road to the unconscious” for many classical analysts. He fuses this approach to transference with Freud's 1914 statement that the interpretation of dreams had become “the shibboleth of psychoanalysis,” meaning by this that such practice entitled one to become a member of a prestigious practicing circle.

With regard to the need for a shibboleth in the analytic community, and the role of transference theory in this regard he writes in his introduction (p. 6):

The thesis of this book is twofold. (1) There are good and sufficient reasons to argue that the traditional theory of transference is neither theoretically viable nor clinically useful and should be replaced. (2) There is available a substitute for transference theory that I believe is theoretically superior and may be clinically more effective.

With regard to the first statement, Schachter gives the following reasons:

a)   That infant determinism on which transference theory is based is not testable or theoretically viable.

b)   That traditional psychoanalytic theory has failed to provide analysts with a satisfactory professional sense of confidence in the face of numerous threats to psychoanalysis.

c)   That psychoanalytic praxis under the guiding rubric of transference theory has proved of limited therapeutic efficacy.

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