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McCarthy, D.E. (2008). Practicing Psychoanalysis Pragmatically: A review of Practical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and Patients, by Owen Renik. Other Press, 2006, 192 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 44(2):316-324.

(2008). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 44(2):316-324

Practicing Psychoanalysis Pragmatically: A review of Practical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and Patients, by Owen Renik. Other Press, 2006, 192 pp.

Review by:
Dolores E. McCarthy, Ph.D.

IN HIS INTERVIEW WITH OWEN RENIK in The New York Times, Benedict Carey (2006) asked, “If psychoanalysis is to be more practical in the ways you suggest—providing quick symptom relief, discarding the fiction of therapist neutrality, encouraging more patient collaboration in treatment—is it still psychoanalysis?”

By way of an extended response, Renik presents us with Practical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and Patients. His approach is similar to what Levenson (2006) calls “the most elusive of holy grails, the praxis” (p. 366). Renik portrays the down-to-earth, one-on-one encounters with the patient. He addresses “therapists and patients” and states that his book is not a scholarly volume. It is an analytic survival manual for the “real world”; it does not “tips,” but, rather, addresses the realities of practice and the kinds of musings that arise as one moves off the “ivory couch.” There is a sense that he is willing to take a risk, a risk with his patients and a risk with his readers.

Renik's style resembles that of a journalist whose columns are brief, engaging, and provocative. In fewer than 180 pages and 20 chapters, the book would provide excellent material for a study group or a brief “before bed” reading. But Renik's work is more than a postmodern pastiche. From his place as an “insider,” he encourages his readers to push the boundaries and to remember that psychoanalysis, as we use it, is a clinical endeavor, not a matter of faith and adherence to ideology.

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