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Neu, J. (1975). Thought, Theory, and Therapy. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 4(1):103-143.

(1975). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 4(1):103-143

Thought, Theory, and Therapy

Jerome Neu, D.Phil.

Therapies for psychological disorders can be ranged along a spectrum in accordance with the role and importance attached to the sufferer's thoughts or beliefs in the effectiveness of the therapy. That role will, in general, be correlated with the aetiological theory behind the therapeutic technique: if part of the problem is ideogenic, then thoughts will probably be assigned a role in unraveling the problem. This does not, however, fix the character of the thoughts involved: whether they need retrace the development of the pathogenic thoughts, be conscious or unconscious, about the disorder itself or about other matters … And the connection between aetiological and therapeutic theories is not a necessary one. A therapy may be effective even though the theory that informs it is either false or nonexistent. And, though what makes a problem or a disorder “psychological” may be (partly) that it is ideogenic, the appropriate treatment might still be organic or “physical.” Indeed, behind disputes about the aetiological role of thought may lie deeper differences about the nature of thoughts and emotions or, more broadly, “the mental.”

I. Nonanalytical Therapies

Some therapies assign no role to thoughts. At this extreme end of the spectrum I would place certain drug and shock treatments.

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