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Hoffman, I.Z. (1996). Merton M. Gill: A Study in Theory Development in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(1):5-53.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(1):5-53

Merton M. Gill: A Study in Theory Development in Psychoanalysis

Irwin Z. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Merton M. Gill's (1914-1994) contributions to psychoanalytic theory are reviewed. Gill's ideas are discussed as they relate to three fundamental challenges facing psychoanalysis: (1) defining the nature of psychoanalysis as a discipline, (2) defining the nature of the psychoanalytic situation and the optimal psychoanalytic technique, (3) finding ways to study the psychoanalytic process empirically. In all three areas special attention is paid to continuities and discontinuities in Gill's thinking over time. With respect to the first challenge, Gill's contributions to classical metapsychology are described as well as his subsequent repudiation of that perspective and its replacement with a “person point of view.” With respect to the second challenge, Gill's writings on hypnosis, on the initial psychiatric interview, and on psychoanalytic technique are reviewed. Gill's later emphasis on the analysis of transference and on the analyst's contribution to the patient's experience are shown to have precursors in his earlier work. Finally, Gill's hermeneutic, perspectivist orientation is described along with his longstanding commitment to systematic empirical research on the analytic process, a commitment he felt was not inconsistent with hermeneutics. Despite the points of continuity in his ideas, Gill's career was marked by radical changes in his point of view, so that one can find him, at different times, standing on opposite sides of fundamental controversies in the field.

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