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Widlöcher, D. (2001). The Treatment of Affects: An Interdisciplinary Issue. Psychoanal Q., 70(1):243-264.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(1):243-264

The Treatment of Affects: An Interdisciplinary Issue

Daniel Widlöcher, M.D.

Neither psychoanalysis nor psychopharmacology has as an immediate objective the treatment of dysphoric states, nor has either specified the treatment of guilt or shame among its primary goals. Certainly, among available medications, classes of anxiolytics and antidepressants are described; yet the prevailing assumption is that the cause of anxiety or depression is to be treated. Neither in psychoanalysis nor in psychopharmacology is it honorable to acknowledge that the symptom of the illness—rather than its cause—is being acted upon.

Psychopharmacologists often believe that the drugs they use act on the cause, and psychoanalysts consider affects to be a consequence and indicator of intrapsychic conflict. These perspectives continue to lend credence to the notion of a competition between the two treatment approaches and an incompatibility between them. However, it is specious to conflate the psychopharmacologist's view of affect with that of the psychoanalyst; the two therapeutic targets are not situated on the same level. While assuredly, the psychodynamic and psychophysiological perspectives take affects into consideration, the processes they observe are not situated in the same clinical realm or on the same observational terrain, and they do not constitute identical therapeutic objectives.

In itself, the clinical psychoanalytic mode of observation of affects has no particular specificity.

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