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Abrams, S. (1995). Common Beliefs, Ground, Hopes, Illusions, And Arguments. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:327-329.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:327-329

Common Beliefs, Ground, Hopes, Illusions, And Arguments

Samuel Abrams, M.D.

Many psychoanalysts are held together by the common belief that they do analysis and not “just” psychotherapy. This way of classifying clinical work implicitly esteems their own approach while disparaging everyone else's. It is no wonder that so many clinicians insist upon calling whatever they do psychoanalysis.

Such classifying is without merit. Psychoanalysis is simply another mode of psychotherapy; or, more correctly, clinical psychoanalysis is a collection of different psychotherapies constructed upon a common ground of facts and theories. The psychotherapies derived from psychoanalytic psychology are different and not necessarily better than those derived from other disciplines.

Unfortunately, that common ground of facts and theories is a bit shaky. Although Freud insisted upon the distinction between invention (theory) and discovery (fact), there is an abiding blurring of the one with the other. Facts are sometimes mythologized; theories are reified. We have even institutionalized the blurring with such curious phrases as “narrative truths vs. veridical truths,” as if there were some value in creating the oxymoron “fictional facts.”

Nevertheless, clinicians have fashioned elaborate techniques upon that shaky common ground. The techniques are intended to promote a process that will have a therapeutic yield. But since there is only partial agreement about what are facts and what are theories, and considerable disagreement about which in each group are the most important, there are inevitable controversies regarding technique.

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