The Analyst’s “use” of Theory or Theories: The Play of Theory
Steven H. Cooper, PhD
Two clinical vignettes demonstrate a methodological approach that guides the analyst’s attention to metaphors and surfaces that are the focus of different theories. Clinically, the use of different theories expands the metaphorical language with which the analyst tries to make contact with the patient’s unconscious life. Metaphorical expressions may be said to relate to each other as the syntax of unconscious fantasy (Arlow 1979). The unconscious fantasy itself represents a metaphorical construction of childhood experience that has persisted, dynamically expressive and emergent into adult life. This persistence is evident in how, in some instances, long periods of an analysis focus on translating one or a few metaphors, chiefly because the manifest metaphorical expressions of a central theme regularly lead to better understanding of an unconscious fantasy. At times employing another model or theory assists in a level of self-reflection about clinical understanding and clinical decisions. The analyst’s choice of theory or theories is unique to the analyst and is not prescriptive, except as illustrating a way to think about these issues. The use of multiple models in no way suggests or implies that theories may be integrated.
Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 65/5: 859-882, October 2017.
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