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Altman, L.L. (1964). Theory of Psychoanalytic Therapy. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 12:620-631.

(1964). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 12:620-631

Theory of Psychoanalytic Therapy

Leon L. Altman, M.D.

Nathaniel Ross stated that while no basic contributions to the theory of psychoanalytic therapy have been made within recent years, concentration on individual problems has brought refinement to our understanding of the hypothetical foundations of the analytic situation and procedure. This is particularly true with reference to the development and expansion of the structural theory. While the chief area of concentration has been upon ego psychology, this does not exclude the need for continued study of the roles of id and superego.

The panel's purpose was to put into comprehensive form the larger ideas which now constitute our theory of therapy and to take an over-all view which has not been done since the panel discussion of the International in 1936. The chief aim of our panel, Ross said, was to establish a perspective and to point to areas for further investigation. He emphasized the need for a balanced point of view in order to avoid misleading unitary, exclusive, "cultist" approaches. We must examine all the forces which enter into the analytic situation and understand its therapeutic operations from the dynamic, genetic, economic, structural, and adaptive aspects.

The intention, then, was to cover a broad range of topics but, as will be seen, a focus developed and gathered momentum. After a discussion of general theoretical factors operative in psychoanalytic therapy, Ross hoped to follow the theory of the operation of specific factors, divided into three parts: (1) from the standpoint of the patient; (2) from the standpoint of the analyst; and (3) what may be learned about the theory of therapy from its failures.

In presenting his admittedly very brief survey of the literature, Ross first cited Freud's conceptions of the aims of analytic therapy: (1) making the unconscious conscious; (2) replacing the id with the ego; and (3) freeing the ego for future development.

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