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Hoch, S. (1998). Boundaries and Boundary Violations in Psychoanalysis. By Glen O. Gabbard, M.D. and Eva P. Lester, M.D. New York: Basic Books, 1995. 223 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 67(2):314-316.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(2):314-316

Boundaries and Boundary Violations in Psychoanalysis. By Glen O. Gabbard, M.D. and Eva P. Lester, M.D. New York: Basic Books, 1995. 223 pp.

Review by:
Samuel Hoch

While this work is not the first of its kind, it may well turn out to be the most influential and justifiably earn the gratitude of the profession. Partly due to the reputation of its authors, who began publishing papers on this subject in 1989, it is also likely to gain deserved prominence for its comprehensive organization as well as its balance between unflinching documentation and evenhanded exposition. Its extensive bibliography (over 300 citations) draws attention to the sharpening focus in recent years on the topic of psychological boundaries and ethical transgressions resulting in at least seven full-length books since 1986.

Gabbard and Lester offer an eminently understandable text, enabling the reader to follow a smooth, logical sequence from the general subject of boundaries in psychoanalytic theory to an ongoing discussion of boundary violations. While it is likely that the volume will owe its popularity to its later chapters, it deserves credit for the intelligibility of its first four, which occupy about a third of the entire text.

Three phases in the evolution of the concept of boundaries are described: Federn's view of boundaries as functions of the ego gave way to a delineation of self and object consistent with the broadening appeal of object relations theories, followed by Hartmann's neurobiologically based concept of boundaries as mental attributes.

The elusiveness of these concepts finds expression as well in various attempts to define the boundaries within the psychoanalytic process. Moving next to other dimensions of the analytic setting, the authors carefully consider how best to understand the professional or analytic role. The constructs of intrapsychic and external interpersonal boundaries are contrasted. Attention is also paid to the role of gender differences in boundaries. In these chapters, concise clinical vignettes bring illuminating exactness to preceding theoretical discourse.


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