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Paniagua, C. (1991). Patient's Surface, Clinical Surface, and Workable Surface. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:669-685.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:669-685

Patient's Surface, Clinical Surface, and Workable Surface

Cecilio Paniagua, M.D.


Surface is a term often used in clinical theory, which seems to have eluded a reliable definition. Freud used the term mostly to denote the analysand's consciousness. This patient's surface does not always coincide with the data the analyst can observe, i.e., the clinical surface.

It is proposed that clinical surface be understood, in contrast to other psychoanalytic concepts, as the clinical evidence that does not need conjecture to be grasped cognitively. The concept of "average expectable apperception" is introduced.

Workable surface is defined as those aspects of the clinical surface that lend themselves well to exploration of unconscious dynamics or genesis. Ideas about which surfaces are optimally workable vary according to different schools of technique.

The advantages of considering clinical surface the objective anchorage of psychoanalysis as a positive science and of differentiating it from patient's surface and workable surface are discussed.

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