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Clifford, M.D. (2005). Did 9/11 Change Everything?: Terrorism and its Challenges to the Psychoanalyst. Psychoanal. Perspect., 2(2):51-66.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 2(2):51-66

Did 9/11 Change Everything?: Terrorism and its Challenges to the Psychoanalyst

Michael D. Clifford, M.Div., L.C.S.W.


What is it about experiencing trauma that compels us to tell our stories? It is fitting that Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea's article, “When the Trauma Is Terrorism and the Therapist Is Traumatized Too: Working as an Analyst Since 9/11,” begins with the story of her experience of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Dr. Frawley-O'Dea very generously goes on to relate her experience trying to work as an analyst following the attacks, especially by recounting what she seems to feel are her missteps with her patients. She reflects thoughtfully on her clinical experience and extracts important questions and principles for our consideration. Dr. Frawley-O'Dea's article is often very moving (especially as she tells of her traumatized reaction in hearing of the attacks), so much so that it has sometimes felt superfluous to me to offer a response. But I want to respect her article as a piece of serious psychoanalytic thought, and so in my discussion I try to give it the considered response it deserves. Dr. Frawley-O'Dea's article gives us an opportunity to prepare for the future, including considering specific technical points in conducting post-terrorism treatments (which are especially important since further terrorist attacks seem likely).

In large measure, I think our different theoretical perspectives are the root of the different ways we approach Dr. Frawley-O'Dea's article. She seems to be writing from a relational perspective, whereas my orientation is self psychology.

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