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Guttman, S.R. (2009). Searching for the Perfect Woman: The Story of a Complete Psychoanalysis. V. D. Volkan with J. C. Fowler. Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson, 2009; 157 pp.. Mod. Psychoanal., 34(2):117-123.

(2009). Modern Psychoanalysis, 34(2):117-123

Book Review

Searching for the Perfect Woman: The Story of a Complete Psychoanalysis. V. D. Volkan with J. C. Fowler. Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson, 2009; 157 pp.

Review by:
Stephen R. Guttman

Searching for the Perfect Woman provides a surprisingly complete recounting of a five-year, four-day-a-week psychoanalysis, begun when the male patient was 57 years old. The author, a renowned analyst, not only describes the steady incremental progress of his patient, but also courageously reveals the substance of his interventions and his rationale for choosing them. The narrative is periodically interrupted by very astute questions posed by J. Christopher Fowler, a one-time colleague of Volkan's at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Fowler's questions echo those that may very likely be forming in the reader's mind, providing an opportunity for Volkan to explain his theoretical and technical stance to the reader as the case unfolds. The result is a book of great value to both the experienced analyst and the beginning student of analysis, for the reader gets to see what the analyst is grappling with, how he makes sense of it, and why he chooses to intervene in the manner he does. Volkan's choice of interventions may elicit criticism from those steeped in technical orientations different from his, but if the proof is in the pudding, the case as described certainly has a positive outcome, lending credence to Volkan's rationale. At the very least, the extensive account of Volkan's interventions provides a fecund starting point for discussion of psychoanalytic technique.

Volkan gives the name “Hamilton” to the patient he presents in this book. Hamilton, a successful Southern industrialist obsessed with sleeping with a different woman every single night (hence the title of the book), endured a difficult—even lurid—childhood, despite having been born into a “first family of Virginia” with attendant wealth and stature.

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