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Riggs, B.C. (1972). Selective Responsiveness and the Ontogeny of the Therapeutic Alliance. Am. J. Psychoanal., 32(1):74-84.

(1972). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 32(1):74-84

Selective Responsiveness and the Ontogeny of the Therapeutic Alliance

Benjamin C. Riggs, M.D.


It is the purpose of this paper to look into the ontogeny and maintenance of the therapeutic alliance, in other words the birth, care and feeding of an aspect of the working relationship in psychoanalysis. While this phenomenon inevitably touches upon many facets of psychoanalytic theory, it is intended to concentrate upon only a few of the dimensions of interaction involved, while avoiding any rigid discrimination between functions: there are those of drive and drive organization, ego defense and ego synthesis, cognitive and affective parts of learning, primary and secondary process in development. All of these are involved in the ontogeny of the therapeutic alliance, and each of them in its maintenance. It is thus difficult to make a rigid distinction between therapeutic alliance and a combination of transference, identification, and a conscious, intellectually determined objective, namely “getting well”. Similarly, although there can be no useful separation between the “diagnosis” and “treatment process”, the discussion will be confined to the opening contacts between patient and analyst. Since this involves the general case of the continuously changing, communicative relationship between a doctor and a patient, it is hoped to indicate an additional bridge between strictly psychoanalytic treatment and other modalities of psychotherapy.

Unfortunately space does not permit a review of the pertinent literature, which can therefore only be mentioned briefly.

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