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Lieberman, J.S. (1991). Issues in the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Single Females Over Thirty. Psychoanal. Rev., 78(2):177-198.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Review, 78(2):177-198

Issues in the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Single Females Over Thirty

Janice S. Lieberman, Ph.D.

Conducting psychoanalytic treatment can be a considerable challenge when the patient is a single woman over 30 years of age seeking more effective pathways toward marriage as a life goal. The analyst must preserve intrapsychic change as the goal of treatment and the analysis of intrapsychic conflict as its task. It is desirable that an analysis be conducted in an atmosphere of “timelessness.” Yet, the single woman patient may become concerned with external issues, such as the diminishing number of suitable men available to her as she gets older and the pressure of the “time-line” for having a baby. This can serve resistance purposes. Alternatively, she may join the analyst in a “timeless” exploration of intrapsychic conflict, unconsciously gratify herself through her relationship with her analyst in the regressive transference, avoid dealing with her life goals, and pass over the time-line for fertility.

Psychoanalysts have traditionally maintained the point of view that unwanted single status is the result of unresolved neurotic conflict. An additional viewpoint with which to understand single women patients is proposed: unwanted single status can in itself stimulate regression to less mature levels of development. Furthermore, prolonged single status can be internally experienced as a chronic traumatic state that is emotionally depriving, narcissistically wounding, and an impedim ent to the further psychological growth and development of the adult.

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