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Abend, S.M. (2000). Analytic Technique Today. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 48(1):9-16.

(2000). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 48(1):9-16

Analytic Technique Today

Sander M. Abend

When Freud first devised psychoanalysis, it was as a specialized medical technique for the treatment of certain kinds of neuro-psychological ailments, the neuroses. Although he never abandoned his convictions regarding the biological substrate of those conditions, experience soon led him to drop the effort to conceptualize either the illnesses or the treatment method in any terms other than purely psychological ones. He also came to appreciate that an individual need not be trained as a physician in order to understand the problems analysis was intended to relieve, or to practice the method successfully. As time went on, he and his followers applied his invention to a broader range of emotional problems, including what later generations of analysts would regard as conditions resulting from deviations in normal development, as well as some psychoses and borderline states.

Not only did Freud change his ideas about psychoanalysis as he went along, but, as is well known, fundamental differences of opinion about the technique soon arose among his former students. First to appear were arguments about content, that is to say, about the exact nature of the insight into the workings of their minds that analysands should be helped to acquire. Adler and Jung were merely the first in a long line of analysts whose views on that subject departed sharply from those of Freud, and today's pluralism is certainly marked by a multiplicity of views on what sorts of insight, if any, are crucial to the curative effect of psychoanalysis. It is probably safe to say that one thing analysts today all agree on, regardless of theoretical allegiance, is the importance of unconscious mental life. However, the varying emphasis they place on the attainment of insight into that life (as against other dimensions of the analytic experience) and, even more important, their differing opinions about what the vital content of such new self-knowledge should be, pose another question altogether.


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