Modern Psychoanalysis

Modern Psychoanalysis is a treatment for relieving mental and emotional distress. Its simple technique heals through the talking interaction between patient and therapist. Join us to learn more or post your own thoughts.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More About Modern Psychoanalysis

More About Modern Psychoanalysis

Since Dr. Spotnitz described modern psychoanalysis as “… Freud’s method of therapy, reformulated on the basis of subsequent psychoanalytic investigation” (1985, p. 25); the question is now asked - what are the important differences between modern psychoanalysis and classical psychoanalysis?

I think it is most useful to look at this question in terms of the theoretical and clinical practice distinctions between the classical and modern schools.

Theoretical Foundations

A starting place for divergence between the two schools has to do with the inquiry mentioned in some of our previous articles; i.e., Who may be helped by psychoanalysis?

Dr. Freud’s opinion (1933, ch. 6) was that:
“The field in which analytical therapy can be applied is that of the transference-neuroses, phobias, hysterias, obsessional neuroses, and besides these such abnormalities of character as have been developed instead of these diseases. Everything other than these, such as narcissistic or psychotic conditions, is more or less unsuitable.”
This conception unfortunately resulted in huge numbers of people being deemed “unsuitable” or “unanalyzable” by the classical school of thought; while the modern theory of treatment considers most emotional, mental and personal achievement problems to be reversible through its treatment techniques.

According to Spotnitz, (1985, p.23):
“Freud and his contemporaries did not recognize the presence of narcissistic transference as such, and they did not know how to utilize it for therapeutic purposes. Since their day it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the narcissistic transference is therapeutically useful."
But, Freud (1914) did anticipate the possibility of such future developments in psychoanalysis (previously quoted on this website); when he stated the importance of:
“… the facts of transference and resistance. Any line of investigation which recognizes these two facts and takes them as the starting point of its work may call itself psychoanalysis, though it arrives at results other than my own.”
Clinical Techniques

Modern psychoanalysts are able to take advantage of a wide range of clinical techniques and interventions for ego reinforcement, emotional communication and resistance resolution. Spotnitz says:

"The essential difference is that classical analysis believes in interpretation and nothing else, no other intervention. Modern psychoanalysis is open to all interventions, all verbal interventions… Any communication that helps a patient resolve resistance to saying everything is part of modern psychoanalysis.”
Meadow, 1999, p. 6.

Some have argued that classical psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on interpretation as the sole method of “making the unconscious conscious” can also be viewed as anti-therapeutic for vulnerable patients; the same patients who are frequently seen by modern analysts.

Are modern analysts opposed to interpretation? Not at all. For modern psychoanalysts,
“…silent interpretation… is an essential ingredient of a successful analysis… Resistance is analyzed – silently and unobtrusively – but instead of trying to promote recognition, perception, or conviction, the therapist intervenes to facilitate verbalization as a connective integrative process. The patient is helped to discover for himself the genetic antecedents of his resistant behavior, explore it in terms of the analytic relationship, and articulate his own understanding.”
Spotnitz, 1985, p. 167, emphasis original.

Essentially, the vulnerable patient is protected from the likely ego-damaging effects of interpretation when used as a blunt force instrument. Clinically, modern psychoanalysis is:
“…applied to take advantage of the initial unresponsiveness of the preverbal personality to interpretive procedures and to the patient’s oscillating transference states… Safeguards against chaotic regression figure prominently in the clinical approach of the modern psychoanalyst; the therapeutic alliance is permitted to evolve at a pace the patient is able to tolerate.”
Spotnitz, 1985, p. 37.

The vast armory of clinical techniques at the disposal of the modern analyst are not indiscriminately used:
“From patient to patient… regardless of the nature of the disorder, the types of interventions employed are empirically determined by individual responsiveness.”
Spotnitz, 1985, p. 38, emphasis original.

Modern psychoanalysts anticipate that a successful analysis will bring an individual to a state of maturity where the patient will be able to tolerate verbal interpretations; but the final goals of modern psychoanalysis go further:
“… modern psychoanalysis is dedicated to achieving far more than transforming a miserable human being into one suffering from common unhappiness – the therapeutic expectation stated by Freud… The patient who has successfully undergone modern psychoanalysis emerges in a state of emotional maturity. With the full symphony of human emotions at his disposal, and abundantly equipped with psychic energy, he experiences the pleasure of performing at his full potential.”
Spotnitz, (1985, pp. 288-89).


Freud, S. 1914. The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement; (fr. Freud, S. (1938). Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud, (Modern Library Edition, 1995; trans. Dr. A.A. Brill), NY, The Modern Library).

Freud, S. (1933). New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. (trans. W. J. H. Sprott). New York. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.

Meadow, P. (1999). The Clinical Practice of Modern Psychoanalysis: An Interview with Hyman Spotnitz. (Meadow/Spotnitz, CMPS/Modern Psychoanalysis, Vol. 24, No. 1)

Spotnitz, H. (1985). Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient: Theory of the Technique, Second Edition, NY, Human Sciences Press.

© 2007, James G. Fennessy, M.A., J.D.
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