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Grossman, W.I. (1992). Comments on the Concept of the Analyzing Instrument. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 1(2):261-271.

(1992). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 1(2):261-271

Comments on the Concept of the Analyzing Instrument

William I. Grossman, M.D.

The publication of Otto Isakower's presentation of his ideas on the analyzing instrument or the analytical instrument is a welcome and a timely event. It is welcome because for many years the analyzing instrument has been mentioned often in conversation but has rarely received extensive discussion in print (Balter, Lothane, and Spencer, 1980; Spencer and Balter, 1984, 1990). It is timely because now, as at the time Isakower discussed his conception with the faculty of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, there is a lively interest in clarifying the distinctions between psychoanalysis and other forms of psychotherapy.

In the 1950s, new developments in ego psychology and object relations theories led to reformulations of psychoanalysis and the psychoanalytic process. The idea of a “widening scope” of psychoanalysis (Stone, 1954) that emerged during that time promoted discussions concerning the differences and similarities between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Since then, the clarity of this distinction has become increasingly difficult to specify as the number of psychoanalytically based therapies has multiplied.

The evolution of these interests led to greater attention to particular factors in the psychoanalytic situation. Isakower attempted to find a specific, invariable factor in the analytic situation, one that would distinguish analysis from psychotherapy and general psychiatry. His interest in the analyst's use of his or her own associations has been taken up by many current writers on countertransference. His remarks are thus relevant to a consideration of how to characterize the psychoanalytic process.

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