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The Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind

Elizabeth L. Auchincloss, M.D.

  • ISBN 978-1-58562-471-3
  • Item #62471

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Despite the widespread influence of psychoanalysis in the field of mental health, until now no single book has been published that explains the psychoanalytic model of the mind to the many students and practitioners who want to understand it. The Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind represents an important breakthrough: in simple language, it presents complicated ideas and concepts in an accessible manner, demystifies psychoanalysis, debunks some of the myths that have plagued it, and defuses the controversies that have too long attended it. The author effectively demonstrates that the psychoanalytic model of the mind is consistent with a brain-based approach. Even in patients whose mental illness has a predominantly biological basis, psychological factors contribute to the onset, expression, and course of the illness. For this reason, treatments that focus exclusively on symptoms are not effective in sustaining change. The psychoanalytic model provides clinicians with the framework to understand each patient as a unique psychological being.

The book is rich in descriptive detail yet pragmatic in its approach, offering many features and benefits:

  • In addition to providing the theoretical scaffolding for psychodynamic psychotherapy, the book emphasizes the critical importance of forging a strong treatment alliance, which requires understanding the transference and countertransference reactions that either disrupt or strengthen the clinician-patient bond.
  • The book is respectful of Freud without being reverential; it considers his contribution as founder of psychoanalysis in the context of the historical and conceptual evolution of the field.
  • The final section is devoted to learning to use the psychoanalytic model and exploring how it can be integrated with existing models of the mind.
  • In addition to being a valuable reference for mental health clinicians, the text can serve as a resource for undergraduate and graduate students of philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, literature, and all academic disciplines outside of the mental health professions who may want to learn more about what psychoanalysts have to say about the mind.
  • Important features include an extensive glossary of terms, a series of illustrative tables, and appendixes addressing libido theory and defenses.

Drawing upon a broad range of sources to make her case, the author persuasively argues that the basic tenets of the psychoanalytic model of the mind are supported by empirical evidence as well as clinical efficacy. The Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind is a fascinating exploration of this complex model of mental functioning, and both clinicians and students of the mind will find it comprehensive and riveting.


  • About the Author
  • Foreword
  • Preface and Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • Part I: Foundations
  • Chapter 1. Overview: Modeling the Life of the Mind
  • Chapter 2. Origins of the Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind
  • Chapter 3. Evolution of the Dynamic Unconscious
  • Chapter 4. Core Dimensions of Psychoanalytic Models of the Mind
  • Part II: The Topographic Model
  • Chapter 5. The Mind's Topography
  • Chapter 6. The World of Dreams
  • Chapter 7. The Oedipus Complex
  • Part III: The Structural Model
  • Chapter 8. A New Configuration and a New Concept: The Ego
  • Chapter 9. The Id and the Superego
  • Chapter 10. Conflict and Compromise
  • Part IV: Object Relations Theory and Self Psychology
  • Chapter 11. Object Relations Theory
  • Chapter 12. Self Psychology
  • Part V: Integration and Application
  • Chapter 13. Toward an Integrated Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind
  • Part VI: Appendixes
  • Appendix A: Libido Theory
  • Appendix B: Defenses
  • Appendix C: Glossary
  • Index

About the Authors

Elizabeth L. Auchincloss, M.D., is Vice-Chair for Education, Director of the Institute for Psychodynamic Medicine, DeWitt Wallace Senior Scholar, and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. She is also Senior Associate Director, and Training and Supervising Analyst, at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.

Elizabeth Auchincloss has done a great service to all of us in the mental health field. She has provided a systematic examination of the current thinking about the various psychoanalytic paradigms in use today. In so doing, she provides students, as well as experienced clinicians, an up-to-the-minute account of the term psychoanalytic as used in our contemporary era of psychoanalytic pluralism. Her prose style is scholarly and precise but easy to follow. I highly recommend this superb new volume to all mental health professionals.—Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., Author, Psychodynamic Psychiatry in Clinical Practice

Elizabeth Auchincloss is a psychoanalyst, a teacher and an educator, but most of all, a skilled clinician. Like all skilled therapists, she knows how to use psychoanalytic theory, which is to learn it thoroughly, understand it, and then employ it with patients as it is useful. Auchincloss does a masterful job of introducing the theory, telling its story (one imagines much as she constructs a patient's story) and then tracking its development through Freud's earliest models and the subsequent elaborations of his followers up to contemporary psychoanalytic thinkers. She outlines four basic models—topography, structural, object relations, and self-psychology, provides illustrative clinical vignettes, and discusses how she integrates them, or selects among them, when working with patients. The book is a delight to read, comprehensive but clear and straightforward. For the student or practitioner who wants one book on psychoanalytic theory, this is it!—Robert Michels, M.D., Walsh McDermott University Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, Cornell University

This is a wonderful book for any student of psychoanalytic thought. It is clearly written and easy to understand. There are numerous discussions of how one theory views a psychological problem and why, versus another contrasting theory. The comparison chart of the four theories each broken down into the five core dimensions is a great tool, and I will encourage my students to use it. The glossary is helpful in clearing up trainees' confusion about certain terms. I will be adding this to my recommended reading list for the psychiatry residents I teach and would highly recommend it for any student of therapy/psychology.—Brett C. Plyler, M.D., Doody's Book Review

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