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Sabbadini, A. (2007). On the Open-Endedness of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(5):705-713.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(5):705-713

On the Open-Endedness of Psychoanalysis

Andrea Sabbadini, C. Psychol.

When the Wayfarer asked how long a journey lay ahead, the Philosopher merely answered ‘Walk!’ and afterwards explained his apparently unhelpful reply on the ground that he must know the length of the Wayfarer's stride before he could tell how long his journey would take. … In point of fact, the question as to the probable duration of a treatment is almost unanswerable.

—Freud, “On Beginning the Treatment”

Freud (1913) famously compared analysis to “the noble game of chess” (p. 123), but only described its opening moves, not the final ones. However, we know these to be crucial to the outcome of both psychoanalysis and chess.

Commonly associated with the premature end of pregnancies, the English word “termination” is misleading when used in relation to the ending of analysis, especially insofar as such an ending should be the result of a carefully considered decision rather than an unfortunate accident. Nevertheless, the word “termination” has entered psychoanalytic language, and indeed there already exists a vast literature on analytic termination (e.g., Schachter, 1992). Rather than attempting to review it here, I shall focus on what I consider to be a fundamental and distinctive feature of psychoanalysis: its open-endedness. This aspect of our clinical work is rarely written about, yet I think it is at least as important as the consistency of the setting, the reclining position of the patient on the couch, or the frequency of sessions (currently a much-debated issue in the context of different models of training).


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