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Mills, J. (2005). A Critique of Relational Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Psychol., 22(2):155-188.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 22(2):155-188

A Critique of Relational Psychoanalysis

Jon Mills, Ph.D., PsyD

Psychoanalysis today is largely a psychology of consciousness: Post-and neo-Freudians form a marginalized community within North America in comparison to contemporary relational and intersubjective theorists, who emphasize the phenomenology of lived conscious experience, dyadic attachments, affective attunement, social construction, and mutual recognition over the role of insight and interpretation. Despite the rich historical terrain of theoretical variation and advance, many contemporary approaches have displaced the primacy of the unconscious. Notwithstanding the theoretical hairsplitting that historically occurs across the psychoanalytic domain, one is beginning to see with increasing force and clarity what S. Mitchell and L. Aron (1999) referred to as the emergence of a new tradition, namely, relational psychoanalysis. Having its edifice in early object relations theory, the British middle school and American interpersonal traditions, and self psychology, relationality is billed as “a distinctly new tradition” (Mitchell & Aron, 1999, p. x). What is being labeled as the American middle group of psychoanalysis (C. Spezzano, 1997), relational and intersubjective theory have taken center stage. It may be argued, however, that contemporary relational and intersubjective perspectives have failed to be properly critiqued from within their own school of discourse. The scope of this article is largely preoccupied with tracing (a) the philosophical underpinnings of contemporary relational theory, (b) its theoretical relation to traditional psychoanalytic thought, (c) clinical implications for therapeutic practice, and (d) its intersection with points of consilience that emerge from these traditions.

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