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Zabarenko, L.M. (1999). The Analyst and the Working Alliance: The Reemergence of Convention in Psychoanalysis by Heinrich Deserno translated by Andrew Jenkins Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1998, xii + 167 pp., $30.00. Psa. Books, 10(4):515-519.

(1999). Psychoanalytic Books, 10(4):515-519

The Analyst and the Working Alliance: The Reemergence of Convention in Psychoanalysis by Heinrich Deserno translated by Andrew Jenkins Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1998, xii + 167 pp., $30.00

Review by:
Lucy M. Zabarenko, Ph.D.

In this slender volume the author scrutinizes one of our most fondly embraced concepts and finds it not only wanting but extraneous and possibly unanalytic. First published in the original German in 1990, this version of The Analyst and the Working Alliance is graced by Otto Kernberg's introduction and enhanced by an “Epilogue to the English-Language Edition” (pp. 129ff.) in which the author seizes the opportunity to respond to reviewers with evident gusto.

The seven essays in the book are grouped in three sections: The first deals with the relationship between technique and method, convention and transference. Clinicians may be drawn to the second section, “The Working Alliance and the Psychoanalytic Process,” which contains a discussion of two case descriptions, Greenson's Mr. Z. and the author's Ms. B. In Section III Deserno reviews the literature on “Alliance Concepts,” summarizes his critique, and clinches his arguments.

The work well written and the author's ardor for his convictions helps him avoid being ponderous. In densely-reasoned exposition very much in the best European style, crisp but not linear, he makes his major message so clear that it's easy to condense: To the extent that the existence of a working alliance is believed to be essential for the success of the analytic enterprise, the scope and timing, in fact the very texture of the analytic process is marred. It becomes vulnerable to constriction and impediments in the idiosyncratic unfolding, which, under the best circumstances, informs both participants so profoundly. Furthermore, the idea of a therapeutic alliance can blur issues of power and responsibility and impose distorting requirements on the analysand.

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