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Mercer, M. (2020). The empty couch: the taboo of ageing and retirement in psychoanalysis: edited by Gabriele Junkers, London and New York, Routledge, 2013, 186 pp., £32.99 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-415-59862. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(1):224-227.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(1):224-227

The empty couch: the taboo of ageing and retirement in psychoanalysis: edited by Gabriele Junkers, London and New York, Routledge, 2013, 186 pp., £32.99 (paperback), ISBN: 978-0-415-59862

Review by:
Michael Mercer

This is an important book that should be read and taken seriously, not only by individual analysts, but also by the institutions to which we belong. The first part of the title refers to the feeling of emptiness that will come to all analysts when they face relinquishing their identity and cease to see patients. But it also leads to the warning of the subtitle that this subject has not been sufficiently addressed by us as a profession. The topic is not a new one: it has been written about before and there has been an IPA Working Party, chaired by the Editor Gabriele Junkers, to address the many facets of the challenge, but, as Junkers reports, it is so often responded to with a quiet “Later, perhaps … ”. This phrase is the title of one of Gabriele Junkers’ own seminal four contributions to the book, in addition to a Prologue and an Epilogue.

The book is a compilation of papers, roughly divided into three sections: (1) growing older as psychoanalysts, (2) illness and ending, and (3) institutional parts of ending. There is much overlap between these sections, and the topics and style of the individual papers are varied. The majority of the authors are European, but there is a strong American contribution, particularly describing the Psychoanalyst Assistance Committees as an institutional approach that bridges psychoanalytic practice with the regulatory frameworks in the USA.

[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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