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J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2005 Summer;53(3):835-63.

Psychoanalytic controversies contextualized.

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  • Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute, USA. dboesky@comcast.net


Psychoanalytic disagreements are famously heated, polarized, and prolonged. These controversies are often the reflection of a shared agreement by the participants to engage in debate at an abstract level far removed from the clinical context in which the disagreement first arose. As a specimen example of such disputes, a case report by Patrick Casement is examined, together with a series of polemical discussions it inspired concerning physical contact suddenly demanded by an analysand in session. Over two dozen authors were almost evenly divided on whether to agree with Casement's technical conclusions, but showed a disquieting indifference to the detailed information available in his report regarding how this clinical crisis developed. The substantive merits of the contending arguments are not at issue; rather, the point is to demonstrate the crucial need to refine a methodology of contextualization to clarify inferential assumptions in clinical discussions. Premature truth claims might then give way to a more rational comparison of the clinical sources of divergent opinions. The term contextual horizon is introduced to facilitate an understanding of how the psychoanalyst makes inferences from the patient's associations.

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