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Richfield, J. (1954). An Analysis of the Concept of Insight. Psychoanal Q., 23:390-408.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:390-408

An Analysis of the Concept of Insight

Jerome Richfield, Ph.D.

The nature of insight, its classification into distinct categories, and the proper uses of the term, have been the subject of considerable discussion and some confusion in psychiatric literature. Twenty years ago James Strachey protested that attention was continuously being given to the vexing questions of whether and when insights should be given to patients,

while we have no clear idea of what we mean by a 'deep interpretation', while, indeed, we have no exactly formulated view of the concept of interpretation itself, no precise knowledge of what interpretation is and what effects it has upon our patients (15).

Strachey emphasized that psychoanalysis should gain much from a clearer grasp of problems such as this.

It is to be expected that the general problem of insight and questions relating to the therapist's role in producing it should have a fundamental significance. The criterion of whether a given form of psychotherapy is analytic has been made to rest upon the undoing of neurotic defenses through the achievement of insight, especially through the insight gained by the interpretation of resistances and derivative impulses expressed by the patient in his transference (4). But in spite of the central importance of the concept of insight and the abundance of data pertaining to it, little in the way of genuine clarification has been achieved since the time of Strachey's complaint. Recently it has been stated that 'Among the unclarities which are of the utmost clinical importance and which cause utmost confusion is the term insight' (16).

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