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Pareja, J. (1986). Principles of Interpretation: By Steven T. Levy, M.D. New York/London: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1984. 219 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 55:652-655.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:652-655

Principles of Interpretation: By Steven T. Levy, M.D. New York/London: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1984. 219 pp.

Review by:
John Pareja

This book is about the technique of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It is written for use by therapists-in-training and their supervisors. Interpretations, broadly defined to include observations, dynamic hypotheses, and reconstructions, are viewed as the therapist's central activity. All other aspects of the therapist's behavior are considered in relation to this process. From first greeting through termination, the author presents his views about what to say, when to say it, which words to use, and how these choices set the stage for deeper understanding and effective interpretation.

There is much to admire here. The writing is clear, concise, and confident. The book's tone and content effectively make the author's point that psychotherapy is a powerful instrument which requires self-discipline, knowledge, no mean intellectual effort, and considerable technical skill, in addition to the therapist's sympathetic and considerate attitude. Beginning therapists will feel constructively challenged by this message, and by the author's criticism of experiential and humanistic approaches for their antitechnical and antitheoretical biases. His approach emphasizes conflict and compromises between conflicting mental trends as the most effective means of understanding mental phenomena and, generally, as the most useful way of communicating that understanding even to more seriously disturbed patients. Thus blaming, as well as passive, helpless views of past and present difficulties are discouraged in favor of a view that emphasizes how problems are sustained by the patient's own mental activity. At the same time, the importance of understanding the genetic antecedents of these conflicts is not slighted.


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