Freud’s Technique Papers: A Contemporary Perspective (Book Review)
Author: Ellman, Steven J.
Publisher: New York: Other Press, 2002
Reviewed By: Michelle Presniak and Michael Wm. MacGregor, Fall 2004, pp. 51-53
What were Sigmund Freud’s positions on transference or on dream interpretation? Did his views change over time and if so in what way? How did Freud’s writings influence more contemporary analysts such as Bird, Arlow, Gill, or Kohut? Steven J. Ellman is a retired professor and past director of the clinical psychology program at the City University of New York. He currently teaches at the New York University Postdoctoral Program and is in private practice. His book is a commentary on Freud’s analytic technique and the role his thinking played in contemporary psychoanalytic thought. In his Freud’s Technique Papers, Ellman reprints and then reviews a number of Freud’s major technique papers, discusses how Freud’s thinking about technique changed over the course of his writing, and briefly explores Freud’s influence on a diverse collection of contemporary analytic thinkers. Ellman divides his book into six sections: The early years, transference, dream interpretation, clinical practice, termination, and Freud’s legacy.
In section one, Ellman reviews Freud’s early writings and techniques and discusses how Freud’s early clinical experiences lead to his realization of the importance of transference in the analytic situation. Ellman specifically discusses Freud’s use of hypnosis, his development of the “pressure technique,” and the idea of defense. Ellman quotes from the case of Dora to illustrate how Freud came to understand the importance of transference. He takes an honest look at Freud’s lack of success at treating Dora and the significance of this, and then, rather than drawing conclusions for the reader, leaves him to draw his own conclusions. This first part of the book serves as an introduction to the remaining five parts. Overall, this section serves as a good introduction to Freud and his early writing for the less experienced reader.
Ellman structures the next four sections of Freud’s Technique Papers similarly. First, he reviews Freud’s changing ideas related to the topic of exploration, for example, transference. Second, he reproduces excerpts from Freud’s writings or reprints articles in their entirety. Accompanying these reproductions and reprints Ellman provides a running commentary in the form of marginal notes. Finally, he explores contemporary views on the topic (e.g., transference) and how they have been influenced by, and deviate from, Freud.
In section two, Ellman explores the concept of transference across three chapters. In the first chapter he first discusses Freud’s evolution of the concept from his early theoretical writings and his topographical model, to his later writings and theory including transference neurosis and repetition. Ellman discusses where and when the idea of transference originated, and how it came to be such an important component in psychoanalytic treatment. At the end of the chapter, Ellman provides an overview of the content of the papers included in the next chapter. The second chapter in this section includes three of Freud’s papers with Ellman’s accompanying commentary: The Dynamics of Transference (1912a), Further Recommendations in the Technique of Psychoanalysis: Recollection, Repetition, and Working Through (1914), and Further Recommendations in the Technique of Psychoanalysis: Observations on Transference-Love (1915). These three papers were well chosen and demonstrate how Freud’s thinking changed in regards to the concept of transference. In the final chapter of this section, Ellman explores the concept of transference as understood by other analytic writers including Bird, Brenner, Gill, and Kohut, and how Freud influenced their thinking. For example, Ellman discusses how Bird (1972, 1973) writes that Freud was unable to understand the implications of negative transference and how this led to the degradation of transference in his writings.
In the third section, Ellman examines dreams and their interpretation. Once again the first chapter in this section begins by outlining the evolution of Freud’s views on dreams. Ellman discusses the early importance of dreams to Freud by citing his Studies on Hysteria (Breuer & Freud, 1893). Ellman also makes reference to Freud’s topographical and structural models and how dreams relate to these models. Finally, he discusses how dream interpretation impacted on Freud’s practice of psychoanalysis. Ellman is successful in demonstrating how Freud’s ideas on the interpretation of dreams became an integral part to the psychoanalytic treatment process. Once again Ellman concludes this chapter by briefly reviewing the two papers he presents in the next chapter. The second chapter in this section includes the following papers: The Employment of Dream-Interpretation in Psychoanalysis (Freud, 1912b) and Remarks upon the Theory and Practice of Dream Interpretation (Freud, 1923). Each paper is accompanied by Ellman’s margin notes. Ellman does not include The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud, 1900) in this section, most likely due to the length of this seminal work. The third chapter in this section features a report from the Kris Study Group (1967) on the place of dreams in psychoanalysis and briefly touches on Brenner, Kohut, and Gill’s views on dream interpretation in psychoanalytic treatment. Ellman discusses how dream interpretation has become an important concept in sleep research and the importance of neutrality in the psychoanalytic session. He specifically questions whether neutrality is possible if an analyst focuses on dreams and their meaning.
In section four, Ellman explores a number of issues faced by all clinicians in their practice including patient selection, analyzability of different types of patients, the analytic setting, interpretation, and free association. For example, Ellman discusses how Freud’s “fundamental rule” (i.e., free association) remained throughout his writing despite changes in the specifics of his technique such as whether patients were required to close their eyes during analysis. Ellman highlights Freud’s many practical suggestions for the practice of psychoanalysis and provides an honest evaluation of his changing views on technique. Ellman highlights how Freud was open to innovations in technique throughout his writings. The second chapter in this section presents two of Freud’s papers: Recommendations for Physicians on the Psycho-Analytic Method of Treatment (1912c) and Further Recommendations in the Technique of Psycho-Analysis: On Beginning the Treatment. The Question of the First Communications. The Dynamics of the Cure (1913). Once again, Ellman concludes this section with a chapter on how Freud’s writings have influenced those of Kohut, Gill, and Brenner. For example, Ellman discusses how, for Brenner (1976), the central issue in determining analyzability is whether the transference is understandable and manageable by the analysis. That is, in a test trial of analysis is the patient and the analyst able to work together to utilize and understand the transference.
In the sixth section, Ellman presents Freud’s ideas on termination, constructions and reconstructions, as well as his views on training and how these ideas have influenced contemporary analysts. The first chapter begins by briefly reviewing Freud’s life (taken from Gay’s 1988 biography of Freud), and then explores Freud’s thoughts on shortened analysis, forced termination, criteria for termination, training analysis, and the nature of analytic treatment. Ellman relates these theoretical issues back to Freud’s life and invites the reader to consider how Freud’s personal life and experience influenced his thinking. For example, Ellman discusses how Freud’s personal experiences influenced his changing views on termination and the recovery of memories. Once again, Ellman concludes this chapter by briefly reviewing the papers he next presents. The two papers by Freud that Ellman present in the second chapter of this section are Analysis Terminable and Interminable (1937a) and Constructions in Analysis (1937b). These papers are well-chosen, but Ellman leaves it to the reader to seek out the original to completely familiarize him- or herself with the entire paper. Ellman deviates slightly in his general format at this point and presents two final chapters. The first relates to termination, the second to reconstruction. Ellman provides an excellent summary of Novick’s views on termination as well as presenting both Brenner’s and Kohut’s views (first chapter). He then discusses reconstruction from a contemporary psychoanalytic perspective (second chapter).
In the last section of Freud’s Technique Papers Ellman discusses how Freud actually conducted therapy (in light of his theoretical writings), the widening scope of psychoanalysis, and then summarizes Freud’s positions on technique. The first chapter reviews Freud’s Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis (1909) and how he conducted treatment in this case. Ellman explores the Rat Man, the first 8 sessions of treatment, and transference related to this case. Ellman also explores other aspects of Freud life including his role as a teacher, his “extra-analytic” behavior, and his treatment of the Wolf Man and Dora. The second chapter explores what Ellman considers some of the neglected aspects of psychoanalysis. Specifically, he discusses analytic trust and refers to Bach, Kohut, and Winnicott. The final chapter in Ellman’s book summarizes Freud’s positions on a number of fundamental issues such as transference, neutrality, analyzability, interpretation, and cure. He contrasts Freud’s positions to his own theoretical positions as well as to those held by the contemporary writers he has cited throughout the previous sections of the book. This was a well-written section and we are allowed to more fully understand Ellman’s position in relation to Freud’s.
Ellman stated that his purpose in writing this book was to bring together and highlight many of Freud’s ideas on technique and to illustrate how these ideas have contributed to contemporary psychoanalytic theory. When one considers the sheer volume of Freud’s writings and the number of contemporary analytic writers this simple sounding task soon becomes enormous. Ellman, however, succeeds in achieving his goal and in introducing the reader to key analytic ideas and the agreement (and disagreement) related to these ideas among other analytic writers. This book is well suited for a graduate student beginning to study analytic theory and technique, or for a clinician hoping to expand his understanding of psychoanalysis. This is especially apparent when Ellman reprints Freud’s papers and includes marginal comments to assist the reader. Those students and clinicians slightly more familiar with psychoanalytic technique may find the marginal comments on Freud’s papers unnecessary, however, they are easy to skip over and do not significantly detract from the chapter.
It is unfortunate that Ellman could not include a larger number of original articles and did not contextualize some of the contemporary writers in greater detail. For example, while the reader is given considerable background relating to Freud and his ideas he is not given the same amount of background for other writers such as Kohut. For the novice this may make some of the ideas and distinctions difficult to understand or appreciate. For the more experienced reader, however, this is not a problem. At 350 plus pages it would be difficult for Ellman to include additional relevant information and theory for all the major writers. It is likely, however, that a novice reader would find it useful to read or have read the writing of the contemporary analysts Ellman cites (e.g., Kohut, Brenner, Gill).
Overall this book was clearly written and successfully explores the evolution of a number of Freud’s analytic ideas and techniques. Ellman relates Freud’s writings to key contemporary analysts and explores both similarities and dissimilarities between Freud and these contemporary analysts. Freud’s Technique Papers make an excellent contribution to the analytic literature and reflect the thoughts and experience of an experienced writer and psychoanalyst.
Bird, B. (1972). Notes on transference: Universal phenomenon and hardest part of analysis. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 20:267-301.
Bird, B. (1973). Talking with patients. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
Brenner, C. (1976). Psychoanalytic technique and psychic conflict. New York: International Universities Press.
Breuer, J. and Freud, S. (1893). Studies on hysteria. Standard Edition 2: 3-305.
Freud, S. (1900). The interpretation of dreams. Standard Edition 4/5.
Freud, S. (1909a). Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis. Standard Edition 10: 155-318.
Freud, S. (1912a). The dynamics of transference. In Collected Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 312-322. New York: Basic Books. (1959).
Freud, S. (1912b). The employment of dream-interpretation in psycho-analysis. In Collected Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 305-311. New York: Basic Books. (1959).
Freud, S. (1912c). Recommendations for physicians on the psycho-analytic method of treatment. In Collected Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 323-333. New York: Basic Books. (1959).
Freud, S. (1913). Further recommendations in the technique of psycho-analysis: On beginning the treatment. The question of the first communications. The dynamics of the cure. In Collected Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 342-365. New York: Basic Books. (1959).
Freud, S. (1914). Further recommendations in the technique of psychoanalysis: Recollection, repetition, and working though. In Collected Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 366-376. New York: Basic Books. (1959).
Freud, S. (1915). Further recommendations in the technique of psychoanalysis: Observations on transference-love. In Collected Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 377-391. New York: Basic Books. (1959).
Freud, S. (1923). Remarks upon the theory and practice of dream-interpretation. In Collected Papers, Vol. 5, pp. 136-149. New York: Basic Books. (1959).
Freud, S. (1937a). Analysis terminable and interminable. In Collected Papers, Vol. 5, pp. 316-357. New York: Basic Books. (1959).
Freud, S. (1937b). Constructions in analysis. In Collected Papers, Vol. 5, pp. 358-371. New York: Basic Books. (1959).
Gay, P. (1988). Freud: A life for out time. New York: Norton.
Kris Study Group of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, Reporter Herbert F. Waldhorn (1967). The place of the dream in clinical psychoanalysis (Monograph 2). New York: International Universities Press.
Michelle Presniak is a candidate in the Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan. Michael Wm. MacGregor is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan. Correspondence can be sent to: Michael Wm. MacGregor, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan, 9 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, S7N 5A5.
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