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Wilson, M. (2015). Introduction: In Memory of Robert S. Wallerstein. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(5):887-891.

(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(5):887-891

Introduction: In Memory of Robert S. Wallerstein

Mitchell Wilson

The question of the relationship of formal psychoanalysis to psychodynamic psychotherapy has been an enduring, if fretful, preoccupation of American psychoanalytic thinkers and researchers for over seventy years. Much of the 1954 volume of JAPA was dedicated to the topic as the leading lights of psychoanalysis in the United States weighed in. Two panel reports from the 1953 meetings were published (O'Neil and Rangell 1954; Johnson and Ludwig 1954), as well as papers by Rangell, Fromm-Reichmann, Alexander, Bibring, and Gill—each essaying to distinguish (or not) psychoanalysis from psychodynamic psychotherapy. These discussions were marked by metapsychological debates about libido and energic models, the importance (or lack thereof) of the development of a transference neurosis, and so forth. Several authors situated these debates within the context of the “widening scope” patient—borderline, perverse, obsessional. One cannot help but be impressed by the rigor of the argumentation and the vigor of the discussion. Various terms were employed to mark the putative differences between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, always circling around the worry about suggestion, and the belief that the “pure gold” of interpretation is the bedrock essence of the analyst's true and authentic activity. Never mind that the concept of interpretation itself was up for intense debate. Perhaps it will not surprise us to read Rangell's conclusion of the work done over a five-year period by the committee he chaired on the evaluation of psychoanalytic therapy:

That this investigation is not focusing on an already settled problem is attested to by the experiences of the Committee on Evaluation of Psychoanalytic Therapy, set up within the American Psychoanalytic Association in 1947. In the years of its work since then, this Committee was never able to pass the initial and vexatious point of trying to arrive at some modicum of agreement as to exactly what constitutes psychoanalysis, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and possibly transitional forms.

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