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What Is Psychoanalysis?

Jared Russell

Unlike other forms of treatment that are widely supported by insurance agencies and academic research funds, psychoanalysis does not provide topical solutions to problems posed by entrenched forms of cognitive or behavioral pathology. Psychoanalysis is not a managerial strategy, it does not help the subject better to manage his or her destructive thinking or behavior. Psychoanalysis aims instead at the fundamental transformation of the subject him- or herself, and in such a way that less symptomatic and more creative and rewarding forms of thinking and behaving will inevitably follow.

In contrast to manualized forms of mental health counseling (CBT, DBT, TFP, etc.), psychoanalysis is a radically singular practice that promotes individuation. To this extent it does not respond to the question “What is…?” in the way these other disciplines do. What psychoanalysis offers is an experience in excess of the demands of the consumer of therapeutic services who wants to know so as to calculate in advance what clinical experience promises. As an experience of the emergence of the unconscious, psychoanalysis is fundamentally an encounter with the unpredictable. Clinical practice is the transmission of this experience in the form of a tradition linking the generations.

It seems to me that what Peter has called the “candidate of the future” is the figure of the consumer of analytic education. It is by means of this figure that psychoanalysis ruins any relation to its potential future as a tradition and as a discipline. Psychoanalytic institutions must not conform to the demands generated by marketplaces of professional training. Analytic institutes must refuse to become professional training schools. It was precisely this reduction that both Reik and Freud opposed, and that NPAP originally responded to as a form of institutionalized yet mindful resistance.