By common consent, it takes a long time to become a competent psychoanalytic practitioner. Comparing his experience of learning to become a psychoanalyst to his time as a medical student in a neurology hospital, Ronald Britten describes how his medical chief assured him that “the complexity of the clinical picture and the laboriousness of anatomical diagnoses would, through familiarity, become easily recognized patterns” (2003, p.x). And within just a few months of seeing a large number of different patients each week, this is what Britton found. By contrast, learning to become a psychoanalyst involved a far longer timescale: The patterns in analysis that eventually become familiar are those of the transference-countertransference relationship. It takes many years, however, to see enough patients and hear about more for these patterns to become very familiar. (Ibid. p.x) “In the meantime,” Britton adds, “the authority of the teacher/manual is relied on” (ibid. p.x).
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