2. Research and psychoanalysis.
The discussion about research and psychoanalysis would die in the womb if it is not put in its proper context: Who and What initiated it lately? I am saying that because the outcome of this discussion and two previous ones with a small group of colleagues- whether “it stops at that” or continues beyond ‘that’- does not seem to related to any defined purpose. We just air some frustration we did not even articulate…the frustration with the state of psychoanalysis at the present time. This year we got from the IPA the notion that the organization is going to sponsor research in psychoanalysis as an attempt to rejuvenate its “dormant” potential.
The problem - point blank- is the crisis of psychoanalysis in regard to the falling interest in it from patients and the young professionals who are less interested in faltering profession. In 1995, the IPA (the House of Delegates) formed a group of senior analysts to study (The Actual Crisis of Psychanalysis: Challenges and Perspectives). The outcome was reflective of the state of psychoanalysis itself, not the circumstances around it (See Cesio’s report on the findings in the IPA publication). Neither there was an agreement on anything in that report nor was a follow up on the subject. In my opinion, the thing that is keeping psychoanalysis alive till now is that we believe that it is still there and also the presence of our organizations, weak and disorganized as they are.In other terms, the issue that research is going to prove that psychoanalysis is still a viable psychotherapy, and if we publish those results, we will convince patients to seek it as a superior psychotherapy.
The IPA’s first report has several intelligent a revealing remarks about training and the loosing of our identity as psychoanalysts. There was no mention of solutions. I mention that to bring to attention that the IPA and We, as devoted members, are looking for what is wrong with people who are not paying attention to what is best for themselves (them !!).
Going back to the issue of research. A group of psychologists and three psychologist-psychoanalysts discussed (twice) the notion of investigating and comparing the changes resulting from psychoanalysis and ordinary psychotherapies. We thought of applying psychological tests (MMPI) before and after two years of psychotherapy. Although we were aware of the problems of sampling and discussed the issue of matching the therapists, two difficult problems remained unresolvable: giving the psychological test before the start of the therapy will influence the outcome of the therapy, and psychoanalysts are unable to be definitive enough about what they consider “change due to psychoanalysis”. This is the reason I could say with confidence that research in the human sciences is either impossible or will not lead to the certainty we expect from research.
W. Windelband (1894) clacified sciences into two groups: Nomothetic sciences, which generally pertain to the physical world. They search (and research) for the laws and the causal factors in physical phenomena. The most imposing feature in this group of sciences is the deductive method of reaching its theories, which allow explaining matters. The other group the idiographic sciences which pertain to the human subject in all his attributes. They investigate human phenomena inductively (the intrapsychical) to discover their structural nature, thus could be interpret, Psychoanalysis, despite all Freud’s efforts and his disciples (like us) to objectify its findings is a human science and we cannot prove the correctness of our interpretations by any external evidence.
Therefore, we should be careful what we wish for: the wish to research psychoanalysis either will prove nothing, or if it proves something it will be a laughing matter to the serious researchers.