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Cooper, A.M. (1993). Discussion: On Empirical Research. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41S(Supplement):381-392.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41S(Supplement):381-392

Discussion: On Empirical Research

Arnold M. Cooper, M.D.

Stephen P. Tobin and Dr. Arnold M. Cooper Professor Emeritus in Consultation Liaison Psychiatry, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center; Training and Supervising Analyst, Columbia University Psychoanalytic Center for Training and Research.

PSYCHOANALYSTS HAVE FOR SOME time comfortably debated the question of whether psychoanalysis is science or hermeneutics. The arguments on both sides have been stated clearly and frequently, and the controversy has been a useful one in helping us to understand the dimensions of psychoanalysis. However, to the extent that psychoanalysis lays claim to being a method of treatment, we are, for better or worse, drawn into the orbit of science, and we cannot then escape the obligations of empirical research. As long as we develop practitioners who are members of a profession and charge for their services, it is incumbent upon us to study what we do and how we affect our patients. As most of psychiatry has embarked on brain studies, psychoanalysts and our collaborators in the psychotherapies retain responsibility for the continuing study of mental processes.

Furthermore, while some psychoanalysts still believe that our activity is separate from, and unrelated to, advances in psychiatry, most analysts have come to appreciate that there are significant interactions between psychiatric empirical research and psychoanalysis that profoundly affect how we think about and practice our profession. It was not so long ago that psychoanalysts undertook to provide complete explanations of ticks, phobias, depression, obsessive-compulsive behavior, etc. Today we are quite aware that some of our explanations were simply wrong, while others were not wrong, but incomplete.

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