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Nass, M.L. (2015). The Omnipotence of the Psychoanalyst: Thoughts on the Need to Consider Retirement. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(5):1013-1023.

(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(5):1013-1023

The Omnipotence of the Psychoanalyst: Thoughts on the Need to Consider Retirement

Martin L. Nass

O let not Time deceive you, You cannot conquer Time.

—W. H. Auden

The issue of retirement in the psychoanalytic profession is a rather delicate and usually unspoken matter. In fact, a recent paper by Norman Clemens (2011a) is titled “A Psychiatrist Retires: An Oxymoron?” On many occasions nonpsychoanalytic colleagues and friends have asked about my own plans for retirement, but I cannot think of one instance when a psychoanalytic colleague asked me when I was planning to retire. It is a question that had never occurred to me until rather recently. I had thought that my practice would eventually close through attrition. In fact, over the past several years I was working only twenty to twenty-five treatment hours a week. I had stopped accepting new analytic patients about fifteen years ago, except for some time-limited reanalyses, and was still working with some long-term analytic patients and several psychotherapy patients, as well as a few candidates and graduates in supervision. Finally, though, a series of noncatastrophic personal and family medical problems made me realize that it was time to formally end my psychoanalytic practice of fifty years. Analysts apparently plan to keep working until they are no longer able to function—and here lies the major problem. There are isolated stories of their continuing to work past the age of one hundred. More frequent are stories of elderly analysts or supervisors falling asleep, forgetting important material about the patient, and keeping the focus of these errors on the patient.

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