IPA Inter-Regional Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychoanalysis

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THEORY OF COMMUNICATION of David Liberman Tri-Regional Entry

Inter-Regional Consultants: Samuel Arbiser (Latin America), Arne Jemstedt (Europe), Eva D. Papiasvili (North America) Inter-Regional Coordinating Co-Chair: Elias M. da Rocha Barros (Latin America)


In the widest sense, David Liberman’s Theory of Communication presents a complex objectifying empirically based systematic reformulation of psychopathology, according to the multidimensional evaluation of the communicative interactive aspects of clinical psychoanalytic practice. In this complex system, psychopathology is recast in terms of disruption of the communication process, producing a deficit in adaptation. Specifically, exchange-dialogue between the patient and the clinician provides the empirical basis for the psychoanalytic research as well as the diagnostic tool. The author of the Theory of Communication, David Liberman was one of the most original contributors of the fruitful 'psychosocial current' in Argentinian Psychoanalysis, led by Enrique Pichon Rivière (Arbiser, 2017). This current of thinkers embraced a multidisciplinary and pluralistic position as a cardinal characteristic. In this context he proposed an innovative methodological decision: taking the analytic dialogue as a departing point in order to study and evaluate the evolution of the psychoanalytic session and process, and the performance of both members of such dialogue as an 'empirical base'. His contributions could be considered as a systematic study of clinical practice itself. Liberman’s purpose was to give psychoanalysis a more fully scientific character, as he himself wrote explicitly in the first chapter - entitled “Science, research and theories in psychoanalysis” - of his early seminal work Communication in psychoanalytic therapy (1962). It implied the decision to develop systems of descriptive and explanatory formulations as a result of the systematic research of the highly complex field of human behavior. As can be seen in the tables below, he used for this purpose Jurgen Ruesch's formulations (Ruesch and Bateson, 1951) which had recently appeared at that time, but in order to apply psychoanalytic ideas current in Latin America in the 1960’s, he believed those formulations can be put in correlation with such basic psychoanalytic presuppositions as 'unconscious phantasies', 'fundamental anxieties' and the 'defenses' (Klein, 1952) manifest in the analytic situation under the influence of the transference-countertransference relationship.


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