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Marcus, D.M. (1988). Aspects of Psychoanalytic Cure. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(2):231-243.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(2):231-243

Aspects of Psychoanalytic Cure

Donald M. Marcus, Ph.D.

While the term “psychoanalytic cure” is useful as a beginning for our thinking, it has the disadvantage of deriving from a medical model where an illness such as pneumonia or meningitis can be cured by antibiotics. We are always struggling to find models that will convey something about psychoanalytic cure but in a way that is closer to the actual experience. The model that appeals to me is the model of mental growth and development, a model that is analagous to physical growth and development.

Choosing this model of psychoanalytic cure to describe what has been accomplished, the completion of a formal analysis is comparable to a child leaving home and, therefore, depends on many factors, internal as well as external. It is hoped that at the end of an analysis the services of the analyst are no longer needed and the analysand, like the grown child, will be able to manage his further growth on his own.

But how does one recognize the point where the analysand is ready to go it alone?

Freud (cited in Erikson, 1950 p. 229) said that a normal person should be able to love and to work. Bion (1979, personal communication) expressed something similar when he said that a good analyst should be able to feel deeply and to think clearly. Perhaps a patient is “cured” when he can bear to feel deeply and think clearly. Feeling deeply would include loving, and thinking clearly would include working; but feeling deeply would also include other feelings, such as hate and sadness and helplessness.

Another way to view cure would be as a state of mind in which a person preferred to know the truth about himself and his experience, rather than lies, deceits, and half-truths.

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