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Michels, R. (1996). Gill, Gray, Mitchell And Reed On Psychoanalytic Technique. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:615-623.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:615-623

Gill, Gray, Mitchell And Reed On Psychoanalytic Technique

Review by:
Robert Michels

Psychoanalysis in Transition. By Merton Gill. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press. 1994. Pp. 179.

The Ego and Analysis of Defense. By Paul Gray. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. 1994. Pp. 254.

Hope and Dread in Psychoanalysis. By Stephen A. Mitchell. New York: Basic Books. 1993. Pp. 285.

Transference Neuroses and Psychoanalytic Experience. By Gail Reed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 1994. Pp. 252.


Psychoanalytic literature is increasingly centred on psychoanalytic process and technique, what transpires between patient and analyst, and how analysts do, and should, conduct analyses. The earlier dominant interest in psychoanalysis as a set of concepts and ideas about the mind or mental life—as a school of psychological theory rather than a method of psychotherapeutic treatment—has diminished. Today, even when the dialogue is conducted at a more general or abstract level, it is often only as background or context for a more clinical discussion.


The four books discussed here all illustrate this trend, although they do not all do so in the same way. Paul Gray's focus is the most narrow. For him, the basic principles of psychoanalytic theory are essentially axiomatic, to be understood and mastered, but not questioned. He sets himself the task of developing a clinical theory, a theory of technique that is faithful to that basic theory, and particularly of bringing psychoanalytic technique up to date with Anna Freud's 1936 monograph on ego-psychology, a contribution that leapt ahead of contemporary practice and, in Gray's view, has not even today been fully assimilated by psychoanalytic practitioners.

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