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Steiner, J. (1997). Letter. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:583.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:583


John Steiner

Dear Sir,

Thank you for showing me the letter from Dr Joseph Schachter, which begins with a couple of comments on my paper. My comment about the usefulness or not of theory was not meant in the way he takes it.

I agree that a theory should be clinically useful. It can help the analyst to think about sessions, to understand what he believes might have been going on, to communicate with colleagues and to serve as a background orientation to help understand the patient. I am suggesting that it is not much use when we are actually in a session where it may in fact function as a defence against understanding and where it is more important to open ourselves to the communication from the patient. Between sessions a good theory can be very helpful and important and if it is clear and well understood it can more easily become a background orientation rather than intrude consciously in the course of a session.

Dr Schachter’s further points seem to me to be an attempt to make analysis impervious to attacks from what he calls ‘widespread destructive criticism’. I fear that such attempts will never satisfy desructive critics and that they impoverish much of what we believe to be most valuable in the psychoanalytic method.


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