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Novick, J. (1997). Termination Conceivable and Inconceivable. Psychoanal. Psychol., 14(2):145-162.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 14(2):145-162

Termination Conceivable and Inconceivable

Jack Novick, Ph.D.

In 1937, with European civilization, European Jewry, and European psychoanalysis about to be destroyed by evil forces inconceivable then and inconceivable even now, Freud wrote Analysis Terminable and Interminable. Freud was 81 years old, and he wrote his paper on termination under conditions that would have destroyed many a younger man. It had been 20 years since he had written a specifically technical paper, and we may ask why he turned to this topic at this stage of his life. He had alluded to termination in his 1913 technical essay, in which he made the famous analogy to the game of chess. He said then that only the opening and endgames of chess admit of an exhaustive systematic presentation and that the rules for the practice of psychoanalysis have the same limitation. He went on to spell out some rules for the beginning of treatment, but said nothing about the ending, or termination (Freud, 1913). In fact, even his 1937 essay on termination did not deal directly or extensively either with termination as a phase of treatment or with the techniques used to start and proceed through such a phase. He dealt primarily with the inherent limitations of the technique, the patient, and the analyst.

As summarized in previous publications (Novick, 1976, 1982, 1988, 1990a, 1990b, 1992; Novick & Novick, 1996a), neither Freud nor his immediate followers paid much attention to termination as a phase of treatment. The view that psychoanalysis has three phases, a beginning, a middle, and a termination phase, was first proposed and explored by Glover in 1955, but did not become widely accepted until the late 1970s.

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