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Abstinence rule

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The abstinence rule was developed by Freud as a device for intensifying the power of psychoanalytic therapy. By witholding interaction with the analysand (for example by sitting behind the patient lying on the couch and providing miniamal conversational cues) Freud believed that this prevented the satisfaction of their needs in the session and would lead them to work more actively on their own behalf. For example he wrote in [[Observations on Transference Love (1915):

I shall state it as a fundemental principle that the patient's need and longing should be allowed to persist in her in order that they may serve as forces impelling her to do the work and to make changes, and that we must beware of appeasing these forces by means of surrogates.

By providing little real, concrete information about themselves the therapist becomes more easily a transference object, that may allow unconscious material to surface more readily.


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  • Freud, S. (1915) Observations on Transference Love. Standard Edition XII p159-171

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