R. D. Hinshelwood

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Renewing and traversing the never-ending debate as to whether psychoanalysis is a science, R. D. Hinshelwood, British and on the Kleinian side of life, prompts listeners to consider how we might produce and buttress our knowledge base via implementing scientific methods. By discussing research as an offensive tactic, as opposed to a defensive one, in a world where psychoanalysis finds itself derided as lacking “evidence,” Hinshelwood’s Research on the Couch: Single-Case Studies, Subjectivity and Psychoanalytic Knowledge (Routledge, 2013) teaches us about the single case study and its usefulness for inquiring into the value (or lack) of particular metapsychologies and clinical theories.

Questions emerge: Will research on psychoanalysis, proving its usefulness, catch the attention of insurance companies and governmental policy makers, opening currently shut doors? Will affiliating ourselves with science strengthen us? In what ways might research be helpful?

Hinshelwood takes us on a tour as he responds to these and other questions in the interview and in the book. In the end we are left with an awareness that research borne of the clinical encounter can yield powerful data. For Freud the consulting room was also a laboratory, and the psychoanalytic method itself a form of research in and of itself. Yet, when it comes to research in the field, we seem to be up against something that at times feels tinged with the impossible. As Hinshelwood writes, “it appears that an extreme standard of mental health is often expected of psychoanalysts, and a suspicion is visited upon us if we are just ordinary.” The implications of this statement for the nature of our researches is plain to see. However, by placing psychoanalytic research adjacent to research in the natural sciences yet apart from research in psychology and medicine, Hinshelwood protects the uniqueness of the method we call the talking cure.

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