Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Transference, Relationship and the Analyst as Object: Findings from the North American Comparative Clinical Methods Working Party

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Transference, Relationship and the Analyst as Object: Findings from the North American Comparative Clinical Methods Working Party

Article excerpt


In the play 'Funny Girl' (Lennart, 1964), Ziegfield Follies comedienne Fanny Brice sings a wonderful, if doleful ballad 'Who are you now?' Her character is in love with Nick, an inveterate gambler, womanizer and ne'er- do-well. Fanny, a Jewish immigrant living on Manhattan's Lower East Side, is transformed by Nick's attention and love. She dares to hope - though is wise enough to know that this hope may end in despair - that her relationship with this man might change him as well. Her intervention will be to love him - to give Nick the things he lacks, needs and wants, with a prayer that given all this, he might eventually change his ways.

In the song Fanny's character asks "Who are you now, now that you are mine? Are you something more than you were before?" Hers is a love song, but also a set of questions. How is one changed by a relationship? "Are you different", she asks, "for my touch, or am I giving too little by loving you too much?!"

We pose similar questions in this paper, using data from the North American Comparative Clinical Methods Working Party group. In essence, we ask: how does our very intimate encounter with our patients enable them to change? How do we envision what it is that we give to them within the analytic relationship? More specifically, we explore (1) how psychoana- lysts in North America conceive of and address both the transference relationship and the therapeutic alliance between analyst-analysand. How do analysts consider these relationship dimensions, and what do they do by way of working within and interpreting them? (2) What kind of 'objects' do psychoanalysts explicitly and implicitly (Canestri et al., 2006) become within the psychoanalytic treatments they conduct?

Research method

The Comparative Clinical Methods (CCM) Working Party is an IPA project developed within the European Psychoanalytic Federation and brought to North America1 and Latin America in 2008. The North American CCM group has continued to develop this method to study analysts' work in terms of their apparent theories along five specific dimensions of inquiry: their theories of psychopathology, of technique, of listening, of therapeutic action and of the analytic situation. In this paper, we address the final dimension - that of how analysts conceive of the situation between the two parties, analyst and analysand, who work together in an analytic treatment.

The methodology of Comparative Clinical Methods groups is well described in Tuckett et al. (2008). We will review this succinctly, particularly as it applies to the North American CCM groups. The North American Working Party has collected and studied data from 32 different analyst-presenters to our study groups: European, South American and North American, but we will confine the data for this paper to the 17 North American presentations.

CCM workshop groups meet as follows: a group of 10-15 psychoanalyst members of the IPA sign up for a CCM workshop, usually offered once or twice yearly, and led by a moderator(s) trained in close collaboration with the European Psychoanalytic Federation CCM Working group.

A presenting analyst for the weekend is chosen who has practiced at least 5 years post-graduation from an IPA institute. In order to ensure a diverse sample,2 analysts who were influenced by different theoretical orientations were selected (Ego Psychology/Contemporary Freudian, n = 8, Kleinian/ Object Relations Theory, n = 4, Self Psychology, n = 2, and Relational = 3), although seven analysts mentioned that they also had multiple secondary influences (Ogden, the Barangers, relational theory, for example), a phenomenon among North American psychoanalysts addressed in the literature review below. The particular school with which an analyst identifies is not, however, a matter of discussion within the groups, which seek instead to examine how the analyst actually works. It was our hypothesis that the ways in which transference would be interpreted, and the degree to which the therapeutic relationship and analyst as particular kind of object would be explicitly considered, would vary considerably among the different North American schools of theory and practice. …

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