A Theory of the Setting: The Transformation of Unrepresented Experience and Play
by Steven H. Cooper, PhD
The psychoanalytic setting can be defined in part by its functions. The setting operates as an auxiliary function for the analyst’s capacities, which include containment, interpretation, as a participant in play, and supervisor of the setting. The setting houses the transition from unrepresented to represented experience. The setting is a location for the dynamic transit between vital, interactive elements of both containment and interpretation of the patient’s unconscious and conscious experience. Process and non-process elements of the setting are always interacting with one another because the objects’ internal fantasies of the setting are always juxtaposed with the constant, structural elements of the setting. The author attempts to further elaborate the relationship of play to understanding unrepresented experience.
The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 100:6, 1439-1454, December 2019.
About the Author
Steven H. Cooper, PhD, is a psychoanalyst and teacher well known internationally for his interest in integrating independent, Kleinian and relational thinking in his clinical work and writing. He is the author of The Analyst’s Experience of the Depressive Position: The Melancholic Errand of Psychoanalysis (2016), Disturbance in the Field: Essays in Transference-Countertransference Engagement (2010), and Objects of Hope: Exploring Possibility and Limit in Psychoanalysis (2000). He has a forthcoming book to be published by Routledge in 2021, Playing and Becoming in Psychoanalysis. A Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, he is also Associate Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Co-Chief Editor Emeritus at Psychoanalytic Dialogues.
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