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Peterson, C.A. (2014). The trial period and the creation of analytic patients. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 23(4):209-219.

(2014). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 23(4):209-219

The trial period and the creation of analytic patients

Charles A. Peterson

Just as there are many roads to Rome, the trial period may be considered one of many opening moves in psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. The responsive – and responsible – therapist must be many things to many patients, some of whom know nothing about the psychotherapeutic/analytic process. Freud advocated the trial period to help him take a “sounding” when he knew little about the patient and when the patient knew little about psychoanalysis. R.I.P.? This brief communication laments the apparent demise of this promising procedure and makes an effort at resurrection by describing the hitherto unmapped latent structure of the trial period. Even if there are fewer patients in psychoanalysis today, there may be a number of reasons to recommend a trial period, no matter what we name this period of optimistic uncertainty at the beginning of every treatment. Even if “consultation” is the term de jour, the psychoanalytic psychotherapist cannot escape certain role responsibilities at the beginning of every treatment, which has been made clear in the ethical principles of the American Psychoanalytic Association. What we will learn about the trial period should serve our understanding of what must also occur in the beginning of every psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. Conceptually, I propose that a trial analysis (1) will serve as a discriminative stimulus, signaling, to the patient, the unique nature of the analytic conversation; (2) will permit an in vivo assessment of the patient's suitability for psychoanalysis, and, more importantly, the fit between analyst and patient; (3) will provide anticipatory socialization for the unfamiliar and difficult roles of patient and therapist within the analytic process; (4) will offer true informed consent about the task facing therapist and patient; and (5) will facilitate an opportunity for therapeutic assessment, all of which will help the naive patient acquire the skills and lived experience to become an analytic patient. The trial period is the perfect host for all that must happen – and what we can do– to help naive patients become analytic patients.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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