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Caper, R. (2001). The Goals of Clinical Psychoanalysis: Notes on Interpretation and Psychological Development. Psychoanal Q., 70(1):99-116.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(1):99-116

The Goals of Clinical Psychoanalysis: Notes on Interpretation and Psychological Development

Robert Caper, M.D.

I would like to begin by making explicit two assumptions on which my discussion rests. The first is that the goal of clinical psychoanalysis is psychological development, and the second is that psychoanalysts try to reach this goal by making interpretations. I realize, of course, that even these assumptions are debatable, but I would like to take them as givens for now, so that I may focus specifically on how interpretations might bring about psychological development. In the process of doing that, I hope to clarify both what I mean by psychological development and what I mean by interpretation.

Interpretations are, of course, not magical utterances, however much patients (and analysts) might wish them to be, or even, at times, believe them to be. They are simply theories or hypotheses about the patient. I will begin, therefore, by considering psychoanalytic theorizing. A discussion of psychoanalytic theorizing is not a discussion of psychoanalytic theory; it is a discussion of how psychoanalytic theories (including those we call interpretations) are arrived at. The point of this is that, if we know how interpretations are arrived at, we will also know something about what their value and function might be in an operational sense.

Psychoanalysis and Experimental Science

I shall start by comparing theory formation in psychoanalysis with theory formation in the experimental sciences.

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