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Renik, O. (1994). Commentary on Martin Stephen Frommer's “Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis”. Psychoanal. Dial., 4(2):235-239.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 4(2):235-239

Commentary on Martin Stephen Frommer's “Homosexuality and Psychoanalysis” Related Papers

Owen Renik, M.D.

Frommer challenges some widely held, comforting assumptions concerning psychotherapy with homosexual patients. An attitude of neutrality toward sexual orientation is preferable to the directive-suggestive methods recommended by Socarides, Ovesey, and others; but neutrality is a fiction, and therefore it has as many liabilities and assets when used as a guiding technical ideal. Frommer is right to point out the dangerous complacency encouraged by a conception of technique that overlooks the intersubjectivity of analytic work. As he says, no matter what an analyst's conscious attitudes and the intent of his interventions, we can expect the analyst's responses and judgments to make themselves felt, somehow or other, in the treatment situation.

I do think that Frommer could have been more evenhanded in applying this important insight. He concentrates—understandably, given the history of psychoanalytic ideas about homosexuality—on the destructive effects of homophobic countertransference. Countertransference advocacy of homosexuality, however, can be equally a problem, and Frommer does not explicitly take up that subject. His clinical vignette about the gay analyst who found himself overzealously questioning a patient's hesitancy to reveal his homosexuality to his grandmother would seem to be an instance in point that could have been used to illustrate the negative consequences of prohomosexual countertransference.

It is interesting to consider Frommer's criticism of Mitchell's idea that therapy should help patients make unencumbered choices about sexual orientation. Frommer sees in Mitchell's concept of sexual preference evidence of a subtle, implicit disapproval of homosexuality, as if it were voluntary wrongdoing.

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