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Schachter, J. (2012). A review of The Analysis of Failure: An Investigation of Failed Cases in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy by Arnold Goldberg. New York: Routledge, 2012, 233 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 48(4):584-590.

(2012). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 48(4):584-590

A review of The Analysis of Failure: An Investigation of Failed Cases in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy by Arnold Goldberg. New York: Routledge, 2012, 233 pp.

Review by:
Joseph Schachter, M.D., Ph.D.

Goldberg, virtually unique among psychoanalysts, asserts that the subject of psychoanalytic failure, largely ignored by its practitioners and academics, is a subject of critical significance to psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing (PEP), covering thousands of references, reveals only four references to “psychoanalytic failure” whereas “psychoanalytic theory” garners 648 references. How can psychoanalytic success be defined without the counterdefinition of psychoanalytic failure? (A book edited by J. Reppen and M. A. Schulman [2002] presented a large number of varied, illuminating clinical examples of analytic failures.)

Goldberg notes, “A surprisingly large number of cases in psychoanalysis seem to fit into this category (i.e., “the patient just quit”) (p. 206). He adds, “The tendency to ignore or deny the likelihood of failure is the greatest boon to its eventual emergence” (p. 211). Because Goldberg refers to both “therapists” and “analysts,” I will enlarge the discussion by utilizing observations about psychotherapy as well as observations about psychoanalysis, because research data about psychotherapy is not only more abundant but necessary to enhance our perspective and understanding of its problems. I put aside the unresolved controversies over whether psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are qualitatively different.

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