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Parsons, M. (1988). Forty-Two Lives in Treatment: A Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy by Robert S. Wallerstein. Pp 784. £39. Guilford.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 3(2):181-183.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 3(2):181-183

Forty-Two Lives in Treatment: A Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy by Robert S. Wallerstein. Pp 784. £39. Guilford.

Review by:
Michael Parsons

This book is a final overview of the Menninger Foundation Psychotherapy Research Project (PRP). It is an extraordinary document, not surprisingly since it is the record of a unique piece of research carried out in unique circumstances.

The Menninger Foundation consists of a full-scale psychiatric hospital with in-patient and out-patient facilities and varieties of intermediate care, with a research establishment attached, entirely devoted to psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Around 1950 a project was conceived for learning more about its work by examining in as much detail as possible the treatment of a group of patients and its result, from initial assessment, through their therapy or analysis to its termination, and on into the subsequent course of their lives. Of cardinal importance was the decision to make it a ‘naturalistic’ research project: to observe and assess the treatment as it was ordinarily conducted, with no variation of normal procedures for methodological reasons. So completely was this principle observed that neither patients nor therapists knew that they were included in such a study until the treatment came to its natural ending, at which point they were interviewed by the researchers.

This secrecy, ethically unacceptable today, is only one of many considerations which mean this study cannot be replicated. Indeed the book is historically fascinating for the incidental ways it reflects an attitude to psychoanalytic treatment in the therapeutic culture of the US in the 1950s.

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