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Cooper, A.M. (1988). Commentary. Psychoanal. Inq., 8(4):593-597.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 8(4):593-597


Arnold M. Cooper, M.D.

The question “what is psychoanalysis?” has emerged as a central theme of this conference, and, of course, attempts to probe this question raise important issues of theoretical strategy. Gedo and several other participants see psychoanalysis as a very broad enterprise, encompassing a large variety of ideas and techniques, including many of an educational and suggestive nature. Technical interventions that many analysts would label “not analytic” fall comfortably within Gedo's concept of psychoanalysis. On the other hand, psychoanalysts interested in sharpening the distinction between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy suggest that “you may be carrying out a variety of measures that help your patient, but your procedure should not be labeled psychoanalysis.” Abend, I believe, has taken that stance, agreeing that Gedo's view of treatment is interesting and helpful, but not all of it can be included under the heading of psychoanalysis. Innovations in psychoanalytic theory and technique have always been sharply challenged, and it is a traditional concern that psychoanalysis not become contaminated with other therapeutic modes.

I would like to suggest that the definition of psychoanalysis be held open and that our boundaries remain fuzzy. Rather than making a definitive decision about what psychoanalysis is and, therefore, what the area of our study is, I would prefer that we continually arrive at new definitions of psychoanalysis, modifying each as we increase our knowledge of intrapsychic and interpersonal aspects of human behavior.

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