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Glick, R.A. (2000). Does Psychoanalysis Work? Robert Galatzer-Levy, Henry Bachrach, Alan Skolnikoff, and Sherwood Waldron, Jr. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2000. 302 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 69(4):794-797.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 69(4):794-797

Does Psychoanalysis Work? Robert Galatzer-Levy, Henry Bachrach, Alan Skolnikoff, and Sherwood Waldron, Jr. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2000. 302 pp.

Review by:
Robert Alan Glick

Of the handful of serious questions that could and should keep psychoanalysts up at night, this book's title, Does Psychoanalysis Work?, is high on the list. Most of us can and do believe we know the answer; and, in the cold light of day, we can comfortingly recall those successful cases that reassure us of the merits of our efforts. However, such anecdotal evidence does not silence the skeptics about the efficacy of psychoanalysis, nor should it. We cannot afford to rest comfortably in our beliefs without systematic study. Along with “how does psychoanalysis work?”—a question that endlessly fascinates us—the problem of studying and documenting the effectiveness (benefits) of psychoanalytic treatment is a very serious matter for us analysts, for our patients, and for the future of our field, serious for some obvious and perhaps not so obvious reasons. The obvious ones involve putting our treatment on what is now called an “evidence-based” footing in the world of therapeutics, giving it the objective legitimacy it desperately needs. The less obvious pertain to the critics within our field who are dismissive, suspicious, and at worst sanctimonious about the (ir) relevance of empirical objective studies of psychoanalysis, and more broadly, of intellectual and scientific scrutiny of psychoanalysis by the “uninitiated.”

The authors of this ambitious, comprehensive, and unique book have accepted the challenge. The book's history is noteworthy: in 1988, Richard Simons, then President of the American Psychoanalytic Association, charged the Committee on Scientific Activities with the task of addressing the need to document the effectiveness of psychoanalysis. The authors of this book served as a subcommittee, publishing their report as a now classic article. Does Psychoanalysis Work? is an elaboration and examination of the data and a discussion of the issues.

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