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Luborsky, L. (2000). Psychoanalysis and Empirical Research: A Reconciliation. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 149-154.

Luborsky, L. (2000). Psychoanalysis and Empirical Research. Changing Ideas In A Changing World: The Revolution in Psychoanalysis. Essays in Honour of Arnold Cooper, 149-154

Psychoanalysis and Empirical Research: A Reconciliation Book Information Previous Up Next

Lester Luborsky, Ph.D.

There are good historical reasons for the long neglect of empirical research by psychoanalysts. From the point of view of psychoanalysis, empirical research has long been seen as an unnecessary, difficult to comprehend, and even unwelcome intruder. One pattern-setting example of this view occurred in the 1930s. A psychologist in St. Louis, Saul Rozenzweig, in a famous correspondence with Freud, sent Freud some reprints of empirical studies demonstrating the operation of repression. Freud replied that these were interesting, but that he had his own methods of doing things, and that the method presented by Rozenzweig was unnecessary: I cannot put much value on these confirmations because the wealth of reliable observations make them independent of experimental verification. Still, it can do no harm (quoted in Luborsky & Spence, 1971, p. 408; Mackinnon & Duke, 1962). Consistent with Freud's response, the neglect of empirical research comes from psychoanalysis's traditional reliance on single case analyses and clinical-theoretical inferences based on what the patient says and does (and Freud may even have been right about these particular supposed analogues of repression called to his attention by Rozenzweig).

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