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In What Ways Does Psychoanalysis Differ From Psychotherapy?

The Letter, Issue 50, Summer 2012, Pages 77 - 83


Gérard Amiel

The evolution of psychoanalysis under Freud, then Lacan, reveals that although psychoanalysis was originally a therapy, that is no longer the case. Today, the true function of psychoanalysis is to bring mankind into a state of desire.

Keywords: history, symptom, le Grand Autre (the big Other), objet petit a,[2] metaphor, metonymy, phallus, psychoanalysis,

Let us begin with a brief historical reminder. If we go all the way back to the origin of psychoanalysis, back to the time when it was first invented by Freud, the first objective of psychoanalysis was to try to resolve the symptom, particularly the hysteric’s symptom. Little by little, this approach ended up having a great influence on the first theoretical writings of psychoanalysis, as well as defining the structure and essential conditions of the cure. So, in its early stages, psychoanalysis was more like a form of therapy. But, as most of you are probably aware, over the past hundred-plus years, the word “therapy” has significantly evolved, to the point where it no longer means quite the same thing as it did before. I would also like to point out, and this is true for any new patient who walks through the door seeking analysis, that a patient can only seek analysis for something which they themselves identify as being a recurring problem, or in other words, something which they consider to be a symptom based entirely on their own judgment and not on any sort of social ideal or norm. So, we can say that the symptom always lies at the root of the analysis; both at the historical beginning of psychoanalysis as well as at the beginning of each new analysis. The question then is: if the original objective of psychoanalysis was to resolve the symptom, how has that objective changed over time and what is it’s objective today?

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