An Intervention

Vanessa called me down (saved me) from my practise yesterday (and my troubled ruminations on the state of the world) to say that there was an episode of ‘In Therapy’ on the radio. Susie Orbach is a psychotherapist and has written a second series of ‘In Therapy’ for BBC Radio 4. Because I’m interested in Freud and the talking therapies Vanessa thought that I would be interest.

I couldn’t bare it!

Listening to it and reading a recent article Orbach wrote in the Guardian brought up what for me are the clear differences between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

Please forgive me my bias towards psychoanalysis – Freud being one of the many jewish men and women including my beloved Leonard Cohen for whom I have a great passions, but I was interested to look at the work of Susie Orbach as this kind of approach appears to be in the zeitgeist and I wanted to see how it compared with what I’m exploring. But I have to say that I couldn’t listen to more than five minutes without reaching for the standby button.

She, the therapist was putting words into the mouth of the patient, and also using her relationship (what is called ‘the transference’ in Freudian jargon) with the patient, as a way of manipulating the patient’s emotions), which as far as I could see completely takes him or her away from the work of discovering their own psychic structure and material. Also she, the therapist seemed to be taking the assumed role of a ‘strong ego’ that the patient can supposedly aspire to, but what use is that to the patient who is made out of completely different clay to that of the therapist?

Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy both stem from the work of Sigmund Freud but whereas psychoanalysis has attempted to carry on the work of Freud, psychotherapy has taken a very different path.

In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the approach to the work of analysis is to treat the spoken language of the analysand (analysand being the name given to the patient) like a musical score that has to be read to the letter. Words are not merely tools to express feelings of the analysand, they are signifiers that by nature are ‘overdetermined’ i.e the colour brown might be used to describe the colour of a viola, chocolate or the colour of the door of the analysands childhood playroom, and in the process of analysis this ‘signifier’ might link up in different ways.

The aim of the work is to keep the musical score alive at all times and this is achieved by the desire and the strategies of the analyst, but the analysand is always leading the work, the analyst is giving a direction through patterns revealed by unconscious slips, double meanings, repetitions etc.

Psychoanalysis has only one ambition – to enable the analysand to discover their ‘own truth’ through following the path of their true desire not the desire instilled by a family tradition or family mythology or what culture tells us we should desire. Analysis is in fact more like interpretation but a very particular kind of interpretation by intervention.

Of course there are horses for courses and all the different methods work differently for all the different types of people that are looking for that particular exploration and of course feelings are fundamental but what Freud and Lacan realised was that it was the linguistic structures underneath those feelings that can really make a difference. After all where can you go after you have expressed a feeling? With analysis this is just the beginning of exploring a chain of signification.



3 thoughts on “An Intervention

  1. I relate to what you’ve written through my own experiences on the psychoanalytic couch. Psychoanalysis is much different than what I experienced years ago as a client in face to face psychotherapy. I don’t believe one treatment is better than the other, but as you say, psychoanalysis helps the patient, or analysand, discover his or her own psychic structure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was listening to Adam Philips in an interview yesterday and I really liked what he said about the different approaches. I can’t remember how he put it exactly but he was kind of saying that some treatments have a specific aim for the treatment, for instance to get better in order to go back to work. Whereas psychoanalysis doesn’t have that aim and so it has the advantage of exploring the analysands own language, their own truth, their own desire. The analysis becomes much more about discovery than fixing?


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