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Johnston, J. (2015). Storr’s the art of psychotherapy. Psychoanal. Psychother., 29(4):428-433.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 29(4):428-433

Book Reviews

Storr’s the art of psychotherapy

James Johnston

Couched in ambivalent material

The words of a dead man

Are modified in the guts of the living

(In Memory of W.B.Yeats; W.H.Auden, 1939)

Between 16 and 24 September 2013, dates which included the 74th anniversary of Freud’s death (23 September 1939), the famous couch used by Sigmund Freud for the birth and development of psychoanalysis in Vienna was restored in the Freud museum, the house Freud had lived in for the last year of his life in London.

I happened to visit the Freud museum during the restoration and I saw the couch stripped of its familiar rug covering and cushions, elevated to a position in the middle of a room where the restorers could get underneath it to repair the damaged material beneath. The couch looked like an art installation; the usually concealed surface on which ‘the Rat Man’, Dora and many other patients had lain was laid bare to reveal large brown stains which were rather like Rorschach ink blots uncovering the unconscious sweat of working through which could be projected into and interpreted. The impression that the very skin of psychoanalysis was lying naked and exposed seemed to be a symbolic manifestation of psychoanalytic work itself: the couch is the vehicle on which people lie vulnerable and ambivalent about revealing the human stains for which they seek acceptance and repair.

This book is a work of restoration. Jeremy Holmes has taken a classic text, The Art of Psychotherapy by Anthony Storr, and he has redacted and replaced some of the old material with new material, to allow the messages of the work to survive for a contemporary audience.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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