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Slater, R. (1956). Interpretations. Am. J. Psychoanal., 16(2):118-124.

(1956). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 16(2):118-124


Ralph Slater, M.D.

Compiled and edited by Ralph Slater from lectures on psychoanalytic technique given by the late Karen Horney at the American Institute for Psychoanalysis during the years 1946, 1950, 1951 and 1952. Further lectures in this series will appear in subsequent issues of the Journal.

What is an interpretation? It is a suggestion by the analyst to the patient as to the possible meaning of what the patient says and does. The analyst gets his understanding from his observations of his patient, his reactions to what is being communicated by the patient, and the inferences he draws from his observations and reactions. When he tries to convey his understanding, or some part of it, to the patient, he is making an interpretation. It is important to make it quite clear that all interpretations are more or less tentative; in other words, there is always a margin of error. The analyst is well-advised to express truthfully to his patient the degree of certainty he feels in making an interpretation. He may, for example, say, “I feel quite certain that …” Or he may say, less positively, “I have the impression that …” or “I sense this might be …” The advantages of such a procedure in therapy are twofold. First, the analyst's groping will stimulate the patient to be active, to wonder, to search; secondly, if the analyst is careful, the patient will get the nuances. Then, when the therapist expresses himself more positively, it will have more meaning for the patient.

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