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Wood, H. (2019). British psychoanalysis: new perspectives in the independent tradition. Psychoanal. Psychother., 33(1):65-71.

(2019). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 33(1):65-71

British psychoanalysis: new perspectives in the independent tradition

Review by:
Heather Wood

A patient once said to me that he couldn’t tell whether I was ‘a rigorous Kleinian or a woolly Winnicottian’. I was pleased that my orientation was not worn like a badge, but his comment left me thinking: why not a rigorous Independent? How does the Independent school within psychoanalysis attract the stereotype of ‘woolliness’, a term which implies a degree of contempt? These were the questions I had in mind as I approached this volume.

This is a new edition of Gregorio Kohon’s edited 1986 book, The British School of Psychoanalysis: The Independent Tradition. The original contains a rich and inspiring selection of classic papers, as well as his very welcome and clear introductory chapters on the history of the psychoanalytic movement in Great Britain, and an Independent view of countertransference. This edition is more than simply an updating. Seven of the papers in the first edition have been omitted, but in their place are six new chapters, four of these consisting of responses by analysts from ‘a younger generation’ to the classic papers; the remaining two are new chapters by Kohon and Rosine Perelberg that serve as an introduction to the new edition. The book is arranged into four sections: Early Environment, The Psychoanalytic Encounter, Regression and the Psychoanalytic Situation, and Female Sexuality. Kohon acknowledges in his introduction that he used idiosyncratic criteria for the original selection of papers: ‘a subjective appreciation of their theoretical and clinical value for my present way of thinking psychoanalytically’ (p. 5). Given his standing as a respected training analyst and author, it is interesting to see which papers have been pivotal in informing his work. Presumably, those papers that have made it into the second edition are those which, 30 years on, still have enduring relevance for him, but now he invites four analysts from a younger generation to present their own thoughts about the papers selected.

In his chapter on countertransference reproduced from the original volume (Chapter 5), Kohon notes that the Independents or ‘middle group’ (neither Kleinian nor Contemporary Freudian), have sometimes been referred to as a ‘muddled’ group. He accepts this charge, ‘since they start from a position of theoretical uncertainty with respect to their patients’ (p. 68).

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