What sets off the termination of analysis and psychodynamic therapy from the variety of endings that enter into all human relationships? So asks Herbert J. Schlesinger in Endings and Beginnings: On Terminating Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, a work of remarkable clarity, conceptual rigor, and ingratiating readability. Schlesinger situates termination - which he understands, variously, as a phase of treatment, a treatment process, and a state of mind - within the family of "beginnings and endings" that permeate one another throughout the course of therapy.
For Schlesinger, therapeutic endings cannot be aligned with the final phase of treatment; ending-phase phenomena are ongoing accompaniments of therapeutic work. They occur whenever patients achieve some portion of their treatment goals and supervene when therapy stagnates. Small wonder that an assessment of the patient's relationship to time and capacity to end therapy are key aspects of diagnostic evaluation. By linking beginning and ending phases not to the chronology of treatment but to the patient’s experience of it, Schlesinger brings revivifying insight to a host of psychodynamic concepts. Nor does he shy away from a trenchant critique of the instrumental “medical model” of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic training, which militates against the therapeutic exploration of treatment endings.
Schlesinger's exemplification of how to begin treatment from the point of view of ending; his sensitive delineation of the mid-treatment "ending" crises characteristic of "vulnerable patients"; his richly woven case vignettes illustrating various "ending" contingencies and permutations - these inquiries are gems of pragmatic clinical wisdom. Endings and Beginnings distills lessons learned over the course of a half century of practicing, teaching, and supervising psychotherapy and psychoanalysis and is a gift to the profession.
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Herbert J. Schlesinger, Ph.D. is Clinical Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, and Supervising Analyst, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. He is the author of The Texture of Treatment: On the Matter of Psychoanalytic Technique (TAP, 2003).
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