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Feller, A. (2009). Termination. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(5):1185-1195.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(5):1185-1195

Panel Reports


Alice Feller

Every analysis is begun with the intent to end. This ending is imagined by the analyst as a gradual process, during which both parties come to an agreement about ending, taking the time to consider the gains and disappointments of the analysis and to consider the problems of ending, especially the separation of the analytic pair.

In practice, however, termination poses a dilemma for the psychoanalyst. Mary Margaret McClure began the panel discussion by outlining this dilemma. There is a lag, she said, in the theoretical and technical attention to termination. This lag seems to reflect a lack of conviction about the goals of psychoanalysis, its effectiveness, and the resolution of the analytic relationship. In “Analysis Terminable and Interminable” Freud (1937) voiced doubts about the possibility of completing analysis and recommended that analysts themselves return to analysis every five years or so. Nina Coltart (1993) noted that it is “very odd” that we end, and this feeling is echoed by our patients, who ask, “Why do we end? Do we have to? Couldn't we just go on? Why end a relationship that works so well and means so much?”

McClure then posed several questions for the panel: “How do we know it is time to end? How do we arrange it? How do we talk about it? And how absolute is the ending?” She asked the panelists to speak from their own experience about how they handle the timing of termination, whether they taper down in some cases, and what they think about post-analytic contact. This last issue is especially important in training analyses because there will be ongoing contact of some sort, and yet one hopes to bring the analysis to a meaningful end.

How do We Know When It's Time to End?

The panelists differed on the clarity with which this question can be answered. Alice Jones spoke of “a plan germinating on its own.”

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