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Schmideberg, M. (1939). The Role of Suggestion in Analytic Therapy. Psychoanal. Rev., 26(2):219-229.

(1939). Psychoanalytic Review, 26(2):219-229

The Role of Suggestion in Analytic Therapy

Melitta Schmideberg, M.D.

Before proceeding to consider what part suggestion does (or should) play in analytical treatment, let me try to make clear what the term usually implies for us. It is generally held that suggestion achieves therapeutic results by means of the positive transference. Since the transference is not analyzed the therapeutic success is likely to last only so long as the transference is maintained. The symptoms are resolved in a transference neurosis. Suggestion usually increases repression and provides the symptoms with a substitute outlet while analysis effects a radical cure setting free instinctual forces and so paving the way for sublimation and the social utilization of infantile sexual impulses. The suggestionist is a parent-substitute; he is invested with the role of ego-ideal or super-ego. The analyst too is introjected but according to Strachey this process is not to be identified with the introjection which takes place in non-analytic forms of treatment.

It will readily be seen that these various accounts of the operation of suggestion are related historically to different phases of analytical theory. I believe that they are substantially correct (with the exception of Strachey's views which seem to me unfounded) but they are too rigid and deal only with isolated aspects. The contrast between analysis and suggestion is rather tendentious; analysis is too much idealized. We know that the results achieved by analysis are not always permanent, that the transference is never completely analyzed, that analysis too may bring about a reinforcement of repression and other mechanisms of defense. The attempt to draw a sharp distinction between analysis and suggestion, to claim for analysis a complete superiority over every other form of psychotherapy is largely a heritage from the times when analysis itself was still in a very insecure position.

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