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Brenner, C. (1996). The Nature Of Knowledge And The Limits Of Authority In Psychoanalysis.. Psychoanal Q., 65:21-31.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:21-31

The Nature Of Knowledge And The Limits Of Authority In Psychoanalysis.

Charles Brenner, M.D.

The topic to be discussed in the group of papers of which this is one comes under the heading of technique. It concerns the question of the relation between analyst and patient: is an analyst in a position of superior knowledge and authority to a patient or not?

Current psychoanalytic thinking on this and related aspects of the analytic situation contains so many diverse and conflicting ideas that it is worthwhile to go back to basics at least briefly. Any technique is a way of doing something. What is it that a psychoanalyst wishes to do? Is the principal task of an analyst to create an environment in which the patient will feel secure? Or is it to assist the patient to become able to analyze him or herself? Or to repair defects in the patient's ego functioning? Does an analyst wish mainly to improve the patient's sense of self? Or to help the patient discover how the patient reacts to the analyst's words, tone of voice, and general behavior? Or is an analyst's chief wish to discover the nature and development of the patient's pathogenic conflicts and to convey that information to the patient?

The answers to these questions greatly influence an analyst's technique. So much so that it has been said that an analyst's technique is determined by the analyst's theory of pathogenesis (Arlow, 1986). One's decision about how to help a patient get well is bound to be at the least substantially influenced by one's ideas about what is making the patient ill enough to seek treatment in the first place.


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