Sandor Ferenczi and Michael Balint: The Use of Therapeutic Regression in Psychoanalysis

3rd Trimester of Year 1 of the One-Year and Two-Year Certificate Programs in Object Relations Clinical Theory and Technique;

3rd Trimester of Year 1 of the Full Training in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

(can be also taken as an individual post-graduate certificate course; no pre-requisites)

(12.5 hrs of post-graduate training certificate)

Instructor: Jeffrey Lewis, PhD

Course calendar: Thursdays, 8:15 - 9:30; March 19 - May 28, 2015

In-person and Virtual participation

Regression, in the classical psychoanalytic vernacular, usually refers to a powerful defensive operation whereby, should an individual find themselves overwhelmed by anxiety in a current developmental state of affairs, they may be transported backwards to an earlier developmental stage either ear-marked due to fixation (that is, having not been gratified or conversely having been overly gratified at that step and hence retaining a libidinal residue there) or due to this early stage providing a safe retreat to a place and time when things were better. In either case, Freud noted these phenomena in his clinical practice, and tended to see regression as therapeutically undesirable and a process which signified a treatment failure which needed to be ceased and reversed…if not prohibited.

On the other hand both Sandor Ferenczi and his protégé Michael Balint saw regression as therapeutically useful (provided it wasn’t malignant) and actually a non-optional component of a complete analysis for the most serious pathological presentations. If the patient is not allowed to regress to the point of the “trauma” or alternately, to the “basic fault”, how will the necessary reparative processes be instituted and the growth process restarted such to elicit and encourage a “new beginning”?

This course via readings, a ten class didactic explanation of critical topics, and finally actual clinical material from both instructor and students, will make comprehensible and useful the powerful treatment modality of therapeutic regression. Sandor Ferenczi’s techniques will also be studied, including the “active technique,” the “humanistic method,” “relaxation therapy” and “mutual analysis.”  In addition, the place of regression in modern clinical technique will be explored.

Schedule of readings (besides The Clinical Diary and The Basic Fault):

1.      Introduction: biographical and historical;

2.      Freud, Ferenczi, Balint: the progression and interrelationship;

3.      Ferenczi : Technique. The Active Technique – shifting technical emphasis to a 2 person analytic process, making explicit the subjectivity of the analyst and the relevance of counter-transference;4.      Ferenczi : Technique. Humanistic Method and Relaxation Therapy – that analysis is appropriate for even the most severe cases, with failures deriving from the clinician’s lack of skill or inability to “shape” the usual technique;

5.      Ferenczi: Mutual Analysis – the radical experiment described in the Clinical Diary ;

6.      Balint: The analyst – the unknown- and the regressed patient;

7.      Balint: The Basic Fault 1 – primary narcissism and primary love;

8.      Balint: The Basic Fault 2 – benign and malignant forms of regression;

9.      The Place of Regression in modern techniques;

10.  Conclusions.

Requirements and evaluation:

Students will be evaluated by contributions they make during class discussions and by a Final Paper requiring the use of an on-going treatment case to integrate and elaborate the course’s main objective, namely the place of therapeutic regression


Michael Balint:

1)      Balint, M. (1952). Primary Love and Psycho-analytic Technique. UK: Tavistock Publications.

2)      Balint, M. (1968). The Basic Fault: Therapeutic Aspects of Regression. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

3)      Haynal, A. E. (1989. Controversies in Psychoanalytic Method: From Freud and Ferenczi to Michael Balint. New York: New York University Press.

Sandor Ferenczi:

1)      Aron, L. & Harris, A. (1993). The Legacy of Sandor Ferenczi. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.

2)      Ferenczi, S. (1916). First Contributions to Psycho-Analysis. New York: Brunner/Mazel, Inc.

                    (1926). Further Contributions to the Theory and Technique of Psycho- Analysis.

(1955). Final Contributions to the Problems and Methods of Psycho-Analysis (The Confusion of Tongues)

3)      Ferenczi, S. (1985). The Clinical Diary of Sandor Ferenczi. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

4)      Ferenczi, S. & Rank, O. (1986). The Development of Psycho-Analysis. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc.

5)      Rachman, A. W. (1997). Sandor Ferenczi: The Psychotherapist of Tenderness and Passion. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc.

6)      Rudnytsky, P. L., Bókay, A., & Giampieri-Deutsch, P. (1996). Ferenczi’s Turn in Psychoanalysis. New York : New York University Press

7)      Rentoul, Robert W. (2010). Ferenczi’s Language of Tenderness – Working with Disturbances from the Earliest Years. Lanham, MA: Jason Aronson, Inc.

Bio of the course instructor: Jeffrey Lewis, PhD - Ferenczi scholar, reviewer for the American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Faculty & Board Member of the Object Relations Institute, and Faculty member at St. John’s University.

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