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Taylor, G.J. (2008). Frontline: Why Publish a Special Issue on Psychoanalysis and Psychosomatics?. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 36(1):1-10.

(2008). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 36(1):1-10

Frontline: Why Publish a Special Issue on Psychoanalysis and Psychosomatics?

Graeme J. Taylor, M.D.

The inspiration for this special issue of the Academy Journal came from a panel on psychoanalysis and psychosomatic medicine at the 50th Anniversary Meeting of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry held in Toronto, Ontario in May 2006. The aims of the panel were to show how some contemporary psychoanalytic concepts and research findings can contribute to an understanding of somatic illness and disease, and how psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy can play an important role in the treatment of some somatically ill patients. Three of the papers presented in the panel have been modified for publication and appear in this special issue. We invited additional contributions from psychoanalysts and psychodynamically oriented psychiatrists who are well known for their work with somatically ill patients; seven new articles and a book review essay were selected.

Some readers might ask why publish a special issue on psychoanalysis and psychosomatics at this time? Surely these two disciplines drifted apart several decades ago when the hoped-for efficacy of psychoanalytic therapy of somatic illnesses did not materialize and the psychosomatic theories of disease on which this therapy was based gained minimal empirical support or were challenged by advances in the biomedical sciences. As Gottlieb (2003), a New York psychoanalyst, recently-asserted, “For most contemporary analysts … psychosomatics as it was thought of during the 1940s through the late 1970s ‘is history,’ that is a closed chapter” (p. 858). Moreover, after reviewing the early theories that psychoanalysts brought to the field of psychosomatic medicine and the decline in interest that followed as psychoanalysis fell out of favor, the medical historian Theodore Brown (2000) concluded that “American psychosomatic medicine as a research field with a clear focus, optimistic outlook, and a strong sense of clinical mission is gone! Times have changed and the circumstances which gave rise to it and the forces that sustained it no longer exist.”

It

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