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Sugarman, A. (1995). Psychoanalysis: Treatment of Conflict or Deficit?. Psychoanal. Psychol., 12(1):55-70.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 12(1):55-70

Psychoanalysis: Treatment of Conflict or Deficit?

Alan Sugarman, Ph.D.

Recent years have seen an increasing polarization between relational models and the classical–structural model in psychoanalysis. Indeed, many relational thinkers argue that the two models are inherently incompatible. In this article, I suggest that such models are more usefully viewed as complementary. Thus, I critique relational models to demonstrate the clinical losses caused by the deletion of structural constructs. Jettisoning these constructs leads to different analytic techniques that seem to lack the depth offered by classical analytic technique. I suggest that the structural model and its technique are based on an emphasis on internal conflict being pathogenic, whereas relational models and technique arise from an emphasis on deficit. Consequently, classical analysts emphasize the role of interpretation of conflict as curative, and relational analysts emphasize the external interaction between patient and analyst. Likewise, relational analysts interpret transference rapidly, forestalling the emergence of a full-fledged transference neurosis while emphasizing the analyst's role in stimulating transference reactions. In contrast, classical analysts allow a transference neurosis to develop, believing that it offers the best opportunity to analyze internal conflicts as they operate in current-day mental functioning. Exploring the analyst's role in stimulating transference is only the first step toward analyzing the more essential internal conflicts causing the transference perceptions.

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