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Skolnikoff, A.Z. (2000). Ritual and Spontaneity in the Psychoanalytic Process: A Dialectical-Constructivist View. Irwin Z. Hoffman, Ph. D. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1998, 310 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 69(2):413-416.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 69(2):413-416

Ritual and Spontaneity in the Psychoanalytic Process: A Dialectical-Constructivist View. Irwin Z. Hoffman, Ph. D. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1998, 310 pp.

Review by:
Alan Z. Skolnikoff

This is an important book for psychoanalysts of all persuasions. Regardless of one's perspective (object relations, self psychology, ego psychology, Kleinian), one has to admire the detailed descriptionof the development and practice of Hoffman's “dialectical-constructivist view.” Attesting to the impact of this volume, it has been reviewed in a book forum in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, with critiques by Jessica Benjamin, Lawrence Friedman, and Louis Sass, as well as responses from the author.

One might briefly summarize Hoffman's clinical theory as follows: the analyst, whatever his or her theoretical framework, must be able to suspend judgment in the analytic process, and to allow for the spontaneity that is bound to occur in interactions between analyst and patient. This is outlined in Chapter 5, “Toward a Social Constructivist View.” The spontaneity of the analyst develops from a willingness to allow him-or herself to respond in thought and action to feelings embedded in the transference-countertransference sphere.

In Chapter 8, “Dialectical Thinking and Therapeutic Action,” Hoffman describes this dialectic in psychoanalysis as the dichotomy between the analyst's clinical theory and the analyst's actual, spontaneous behavior with the patient. An important extension of the author's concept of the dialectic in psychoanalysis, as described in the first two chapters of the book, centers on the meaning of mortality for the analyst and patient engaged in analysis.

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