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Crowell, M.G. (1992). Supervising Institute Candidates in Psychoanalytic Case Research. Mod. Psychoanal., 17(2):197-202.

(1992). Modern Psychoanalysis, 17(2):197-202

Supervising Institute Candidates in Psychoanalytic Case Research

Mimi G. Crowell, Ph.D.

The experience of doing psychoanalytic research does not take place in a vacuum. Whenever an analyst sits with a patient, he is doing research—observing and studying how the patient defends against unacceptable thoughts and feelings, how he chooses to express his conflict between his impulses and his defenses, and how this conflict is activated in the transference. Ideally, this is taking place in an environment in which the analyst allows the process to unfold naturally, and is not encumbered by countertransference resistances that would interfere with this aim. The analyst formulates questions in her mind about what she is observing (moving from noting particular symptoms to a deeper level of dynamics), helping the patient to say more until the resistance is understood. Based on this understanding, some intervention is planned to help resolve that resistance. Getting to that point is all research.

So when students in psychoanalytic training undertake the process of writing a research paper, they have already spent a good deal of time acquiring many of the skills they need to begin. Prior to writing research papers at psychoanalytic institutes, students have been taking courses, seeing patients under supervision, and undergoing their own analysis—all of which enables them to observe and understand patients with increasing skill and objectivity. They have usually studied research methods, and have become aware of the differences between psychoanalytic and other types of research and the history of the development of psychoanalytic research, especially of the single-case study. They have begun to discuss how what they are observing with their patients can be formulated into an “answerable” research question, and into an appropriate research design to address such question, and into an appropriate research design to address such questions.

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