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Cavenar, J.O., Jr. Nash, J.L. (1976). The Dream as a Signal for Termination. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 24:425-436.

(1976). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 24:425-436

The Dream as a Signal for Termination

Jesse O. Cavenar, Jr., M.D. and James L. Nash, M.D.

THE QUESTION OF WHEN TO TERMINATE a psychoanalysis has been controversial throughout its history as a treatment. A number of writers have considered the issue, beginning with Freud's observations (1913) that there is in fact a terminal phase whose movements, like a chess game, may be plotted. The problem of determining the appropriate time for termination is, as we know, enormously complex. It encompasses not only valid intrinsic theoretical issues, but also extrinsic issues brought by the patient, such as economic concerns and occupational pressures; extrinsic issues from the analyst's side may also enter into the decision. These considerations typically lead, however, to a premature breaking off of the treatment, and, ideally, should not be of overriding importance. Signs of symptomatic improvement are of course influential in the decision to terminate, but some analysts (Jones, 1936); (Freud, 1937); (Nunberg, 1954); (Dewald, 1972) have demonstrated the unreliability of this as a measure of successful treatment.

Glover (1955) calls for the need for confirmatory evidence that the analytic goals have been accomplished. He speaks of the need to eliminate any "miscarriages of judgement due to impatience or boredom or optimism on the analyst's part" (p. 157) and for a detailing of clinical standards other than signs of symptomatic improvement in the decision for termination.


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