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Berger, M.M. (1994). Feedback in Dynamic Psychotherapy: Definitions and Essential Concepts. Am. J. Psychoanal., 54(3):235-254.

(1994). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 54(3):235-254

Feedback in Dynamic Psychotherapy: Definitions and Essential Concepts

Milton M. Berger, M.D.

Introduction and History

Feedback is a concept that has been used increasingly to understand and regulate human communication and behaviors since the work of Weiner (1950) on The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. The literature of psychoanalysis and dynamic psychotherapy shows little understanding or use of the concept of feedback in examining the process of psychoanalysis or dynamic psychotherapy. This is surprising since it has been known for many years that the feedback of spoken language, as well as nonspoken language and nonspoken human behaviors, does not simply communicate information and messages but also “comment on, make judgments about, and conceal or rationalize actions that are already going on” (Bateson, 1955; Berger, 1964; Scheflen, 1972).

Bateson emphasized the significance of context, levels, and difference in understanding feedback. My current view of the complexity and significance of feedback follows the work previously done on cybernertics, on information theory (Shannon and Weaver, 1949), and on general systems theory (Bertalanffy, 1950). It takes into account not only words but context, values, social, cultural, and psychological aspects of human beings relating with each other at any single moment that follows and is influenced by what happened in recent and other moments long since passed. A positive feedback does not mean something that is pleasant or feels good but is an effect that produces an increase of enlightened self-esteem, self-understanding, and personal wisdom, which can lead to self-empowerment and change.

My definition of feedback goes far beyond Weiner (1950) who stated, “Effective behavior must be informed by some sort of feedback process, telling it whether it has equaled its goal or fallen short.

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