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Bernardi, R. (2001). Psychoanalytic Goals: New and Old Paradoxes. Psychoanal Q., 70(1):67-98.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(1):67-98

Psychoanalytic Goals: New and Old Paradoxes

Ricardo Bernardi, M.D.


There is no single or simple way to study the goals of clinical psychoanalysis, given the wide range of perspectives in the field. What kinds of goals are we talking about? Ideal goals? Real goals? Do such goals refer to the process or to the outcome? Are they the goals of the analyst or the patient? According to which theoretical and technical framework are they conceived? Are psychoanalytic goals similar or different from the goals of life itself? And so we could continue.

These questions are interrelated, and each brings other questions into discussion. At bottom, we inevitably find that what is always being debated is a conceptual issue: What is a psychoanalytic treatment? Even though a discussion of ideal models of psychoanalysis may lead to better understanding in numerous areas, I think that it leaves some fundamental questions unresolved. The study that begins with normative models must be complemented by studies that build on the goals of analysis such as they exist in the minds of analyst and patient, in different kinds of analytic treatments, and as can be verified from observation of the results of real analyses.

Some of the difficulties in defining the goals of psychoanalysis stem from the multiplicity of psychoanalytic theories in evidence today, as well as from historical changes (see Sandler and Dreher 1996). Other problems, however, are not specific to particular theoretical approaches, but seem to occur in the field at large, and these will be further discussed below.

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