Psychoanalysis as an Ethical Process: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Psychoanalysis as an Ethical Process

1st Edition

By Robert P. Drozek


290 pages

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pub: 2019-02-20
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What role does ethics play in the practice of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy?

For most of its history, psychoanalysis has viewed ethics as a "side issue" in clinical work—occasionally relevant, but not central to therapeutic action. In Psychoanalysis as an Ethical Process, Robert Drozek highlights the foundational importance of ethical experience in the therapeutic relationship, as well as the role that ethical commitments have played in inspiring what has been called the "relational turn" in psychoanalysis.

Using vivid clinical examples from the treatment of patients with severe personality disorders, Drozek sketches out an ethically grounded vision of analytic process, wherein analyst and patient are engaged in the co-construction of an intersubjective space that is progressively more consistent with their intrinsic worth as human beings. Psychoanalysis can thus be seen as a unique vehicle for therapeutic and ethical change, leading to a dramatic expansion of agency, altruism, and self-esteem for both participants. By bringing our analytic theories into closer contact with our ethical experiences as human beings, we can connect more fully with the fundamental humanity that unites us with our patients, and that serves as the basis for deep and lasting therapeutic change.

This book will be of interest to psychotherapists and psychoanalysts, as well as scholars in ethical theory and philosophy.


"In Psychoanalysis as an Ethical Process, Robert Drozek has made a major contribution to the body of psychoanalytic knowledge. The ambition of the book is nothing short of a compelling attempt to update our understanding of the psychoanalytic change process in the light of the relational turn in psychoanalysis. If we take psychoanalytic psychology seriously as a project, then the concepts with which the author forces us to engage once more occupy pride of place. The issues of culpability, free will, dignity and the potential to genuinely act in the interest of another person can again become central as we contemplate the reason for doing things in the clinical setting, as well as outside it. The book offers a novel, creative and scholarly understanding of the complexity psychoanalysts willingly but sometimes naively enter into as they engage in long-term intensive psychological therapy with the individuals who have sought their assistance. Drozek provides the clarity of thinking that we all need to be able to engage in this process in a reflective, productive and satisfying way."-From the foreword by Peter Fonagy, PhD, FBA, FMedSci, FAcSS, Professor of Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Developmental Science, University College London, UK

"Robert Drozek, in this splendid new book, argues that psychoanalysis is at heart an ethical process. He persuasively convinces the reader that therapeutic change has an ethical component to it of which we may or may not be aware. He touches on the role of dignity for both members of the dyad, value as the native tongue of psychoanalysis, and the sources of motivation for change. Throughout the book he provides detailed clinical material that helps the reader grasp how he translates his thinking into what one does in the give-and-take of the analytic setting. I highly recommend this superb new book to both analysts and analytic therapists."-Glen O. Gabbard, MD, author of Boundaries and Boundary Violations in Psychoanalysis

"Psychoanalysis as an Ethical Process is an inspiring and important reconsideration of relational psychoanalytic theory, which shines light into the crucial motivation of intersubjectivity. It highlights the need to ground our clinical work in the conscious reflection on the unconditional value of the other, that is dignity, and this in turn becomes the basis for radical transformation of our self- and other-awareness. Drozek provides an exceptionally lucid narrative, replete with clinical examples, about the way in which ethical thinking is integral to psychoanalysis both as theory and practice. In so doing, he makes tangible for us the unity of these elements, and removes many obstacles to making theory an exciting and uplifting part of our process."-Jessica Benjamin, PhD, Faculty, New York University Postdoctoral Psychology Program and the Stephen Mitchell Relational Studies Center, New York; author of Beyond Doer and Done To

Table of Contents

Foreword by Peter Fonagy

PART I: Psychoanalysis and ethics

1 Introduction to an ethical psychoanalysis

2 A dialectical vision of psychoanalytic ethics

PART II: Theoretical revisions

3 The dilemma of intersubjective motivation

4 The dignity in multiplicity

5 Value as the native tongue of psychoanalysis

PART III: Clinical applications

6 Psychoanalysis as an ethical process

7 The ethical dialectics of technique

8 Conclusion: The dialectical method of psychoanalysis

About the Author

Robert P. Drozek, LICSW, is an individual and group psychotherapist in the Adult Center for Borderline Personality Disorder at McLean Hospital. He serves as a teaching associate in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and as a supervisor of mentalization-based treatment through the Anna Freud Centre and the Borderline Personality Disorder Training Institute at McLean Hospital. He is in private practice in Belmont, Massachusetts.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health