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Virtue, M. (2017). Psychoanalysis: From practice to theory, edited by Jorge Canestri, Wiley, Chichester, 2006; 218 pp. £47.50. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(4):1254-1260.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(4):1254-1260

Psychoanalysis: From practice to theory, edited by Jorge Canestri, Wiley, Chichester, 2006; 218 pp. £47.50

Review by:
Megan Virtue

The current proliferation of psychoanalytic theories challenges the integrity of psychoanalysis, theoretically and clinically. In the 1980s debates ensued over the viability and advisability of the endeavour to find theoretical ‘common ground’ among psychoanalytic theories. At this time little reference was paid to the question of theoretical pluralism in psychoanalysis in relation to actual psychoanalytic practice. With this gap in mind the European Psychoanalytic Federation formed a Working Party on Theoretical Issues (WPTI) in 2000. The task of the group was to explore the relationship between clinical psychoanalytic practice and psychoanalytic theories. The fruits of this project can be enjoyed in this thought-provoking and diverse set of papers.

In the first chapter Canestri puts forward a methodology for conceptual research in psychoanalysis on an empirical basis. He begins by defending an anti-dogmatic epistemology, which questions the suitability of research methods in psychoanalysis that are derived from a scientific model appropriate for disciplines such as calculus. The search is for a research strategy that embraces the irreducible subjectivity of the analytic situation and accounts for the complexity inherent in psychoanalytic practice. Canestri refers to Freud's observation, mentioned in a letter to Ferenczi, that theories are not deliberately created, but instead ‘turn up like an unexpected guest in the house’. These theories must then be subjected to criticism through contact with reality, just as fantasies are subject to reality testing. This initial chapter conveys the rationale and conceptual background of the Working Party.

In addressing psychoanalytic practice specifically Canestri and the Working Party make use of Joseph Sandler's 1983 notion of implicit theories used by clinicians (Sandler and Sandler, 1983).

[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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