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Friedman, M. (1975). Healing Through Meeting: A Dialogical Approach to Psychotherapy: Part I. Am. J. Psychoanal., 35(3):255-267.

(1975). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 35(3):255-267

Healing Through Meeting: A Dialogical Approach to Psychotherapy: Part I

Maurice Friedman, Ph.D.

One aspect of the movement of existential psychology and psychiatry that has consistently been neglected, even if touched on here and there, is that of healing through meeting. Though it has been present as a minor theme in much of the literature, a strong light has never been trained on it so as to bring out its true importance and illuminate the issues and problems that it raises. All therapy relies to a greater or lesser extent on the meeting between therapist and client and the meeting among clients. But only a few theories have singled out meeting—the sphere of the “between”—as the central, as opposed to ancillary, source of healing.

From the very beginning of formal psychoanalysis, healing through meeting was already built into the system as an indispensable means to the end of overcoming fixation and repressions. Even if the therapeutic situation was toned down by Freud's asking the patient to lie on the couch rather than face him, it still was a meeting, in contrast, for instance, to the situation in which a psychologist administers a Rorschach or a TAT test. Freudian theory, to be sure, sees the ego as the servant of three masters—the superego, the id, and the environment. “Freud fought against his humanistic personal urges through his ‘scientism,’ “writes Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, “and he abhorred Ferenczi's relational emphasis on therapeutic method.”1 Yet we cannot imagine Freud working year after year with people and dealing with them only as objects. When we turn to Carl Jung, whose theory is even more preoccupied with the intrapsychic than Freud's, it is startling to realize the extent to which his therapy is centered on the dimension of meeting, or dialogue. In The Undiscovered Self Jung says, “All over the world, it is being recognized today that what is being treated is not a symptom, but a patient.”2 The more the doctor schematizes, the more the patient quite rightly resists. The patient demands to be dealt with in his or her uniqueness, and not just as part of a problem, and to do this the therapist must engage and risk himself as a person.

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