Comments On: Lewis R. Wolberg, M.D.: “Hypnosis and Psychoanalytic Therapy (Hypnoanalysis)”


American Journal of Psychotherapy

By Lazarus, Arnold A.
Academic journal article from 
American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 50, No. 4

Article details

Beginning of article

In 1987, writing about future trends in psychotherapy, Wolberg stated: “Many professionals are hostages to their early training rigidities”‘ (p. 252). Reviewing his paper on “Hypnosis and Psychoanalytic Therapy (Hypnoanalysis),” published in 1947 during the heyday of psychoanalytic thought, I was impressed how Dr. Wolberg was able to transcend the rigidities to which he had been exposed. Although he remained committed to, and convinced of, the virtues of psychoanalytic concepts and procedures throughout his life (indicating perhaps that no one entirely rises above the Zeitgeist) his visionary outlook and pragmatic perspective are clearly evident. It strikes me as astonishing that fifty years ago, he addressed the need for brief therapy and discussed the advisability of setting modest treatment goals in many instances. Long before the birth of “behavior therapy,” Dr. Wolberg was advocating such techniques as “ventilation, reassurance, guidance, persuasion and desensitization” (p. 393), and discussing “reconditioning and reeducation and . . . the substitution of mature habit patterns for neurotic infantile ones” (p. 397).


Wolberg felt that often simple advice could be all patients need. They may be just too subjectively involved in a situation to find a solution by themselves. I find this particularly noteworthy in light of the fact that to this day, many clinicians strongly eschew dispensing advice on the grounds that any active stance from a therapist will interfere with, rather than facilitate the resolution of intrapsychic conflicts (a view with which I strongly disagree). Thus, although Wolberg remained heavily influenced by psychoanalytic thinking, he demonstrated his eclectic and far-reaching outlook even in 1947-characteristics that became prominent in his later encyclopedic writings.

Those who believe that considerations of short-term, brief, or timelimited psychodynamic therapy are of recent vintage (mainly since the advent of HMOs and managed health care), may be amazed to read Wolberg’s remarks about the time element as a main drawback of psychoanalysis and his cogent remarks about the need to shorten therapy. …

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