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Viorst, J. (1982). Experiences of Loss at the End of Analysis: The Analyst's Response to Termination. Psychoanal. Inq., 2(3):399-418.

(1982). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 2(3):399-418

Experiences of Loss at the End of Analysis: The Analyst's Response to Termination

Judith Viorst

A patient is nearing the end of a lengthy analysis. The fantasy is that his analyst, who has a pair of tickets to an Isaac Stern concert, offers him one of the tickets as a gift. At the concert hall he sits beside the recipient of the analyst's other ticket, who turns out to be none other than the analyst's lovely, and unmarried, daughter. They talk, they start to date each other, they fall in love, and soon they are happily married—living, of course, not too far from daddy-analyst.

A typical patient's fantasy? Not quite. The fantasy belongs not to the patient but to the analyst. At the end of an hour one day, the analyst found himself caught up in this pleasant reverie which, he explains, “both took care of my fatherliness and met the needs of my patient to hold onto me.”

Firestein (1978), in his fine study of termination, characterizes the terminal phase of analysis as that period when the focus is on the issue of ending a highly significant relationship. Both the patient and the analyst experience separation reactions, he writes, and both—to varying degrees—experience “what, for want of a better description, could be called grief” (p. 215).

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