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Goldberg, S. (1999). Regression: Essential Clinical Condition or Iatrogenic Phenomenon?. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(4):1169-1178.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(4):1169-1178

Regression: Essential Clinical Condition or Iatrogenic Phenomenon?

Steven Goldberg

The task of this panel was to reconsider therapeutic and non-therapeutic aspects of regression from a contemporary perspective, and to clarify, if possible, differences among a number of theoretical perspectives within psychoanalysis. Do analysts continue to believe that regression regularly occurs in analysis? If so, do they view regression as indispensable, incidental, or inimical to analytic work? To what extent do analysts, as they listen to their patients, emphasize the repetition of old patterns of relationship, and to what extent do they focus on new opportunities for relating? And to what extent is regression intrinsic within the patient, brought about by the activity of the analyst, or mutually regulated between the two? The investigation included four papers, and then a discussion among the panelists.

Steven Goldberg, the panel reporter, presented a brief historical review of the subject and the controversies surrounding it. He pointed out that regression was seen by Freud both as liability and as clinical opportunity. More recently, with the widening scope of analysis and the intensive psychoanalytic study of more deeply disturbed patients, there has been considerable focus on the clinical role of regression, including the analyst's contribution to regressive phenomena. Though regression can cause formidable resistances and technical problems for the analytic work, and can affect the mental functioning and work of both patient and analyst, most analytic discussion has emphasized that it can also function as a main vehicle of access to pathogenic unconscious contents and conflicts.

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