The psychoanalytic attitude brings together ethics, the provision of a setting with boundaries and the reflective approach of the analyst to clinical work.

These seminars will link the presentation of clinical work with papers which describe important aspects of the psychoanalytic attitude. The seminar will be structured through a study of a paper, alternating in the next seminar with a case presentation by a member of the seminar. In this way the seminar will be able to think about the development of a psychoanalytic attitude.

We will begin with a study of the requirements of a relationship with a patient in order to access the unconscious and then move to a study of the setting and its boundaries. Attention to the violations of these boundaries, will help develop understanding of boundaries and the importance of a framework of ethical regulation.


The primary texts used for the study of boundaries and ethical regulation will be:

Glen Gabbard; Boundaries and Boundary Violations in Psychoanalysis, Chap 1, 2 and 3, 2nd Edition

Mercer; Ethics and Psychoanalysis, unpublished presentation in Belgrade Seminars.

A-M Sandler; Institutional Responses to Boundary Violations: the case of Masud Kahn, IJPA , 2004

The relationship between ethics and the possible consequences of transference and countertransference is discussed by Ron Britton in his historical review of the origins of psychoanalytic treatment.

Britton; Hysteria I, Anna O: getting in on the act. In (Sex, Death and The Superego)

Britton; Hysteria II: Sabina Spielrein, sex, death and psychoanalysis. In (Sex, Death and The Superego)

The psychoanalytic attitude is founded in the multi-layered nature of emotional communication. The following papers by Kleinian writers describe the discovery of clinical facts and the use of psychoanalytic theory, which demonstrate this attitude.

Steiner; Lectures on Technique by Melanie Klein, Pt 1, Introduction.

O’Shaughnessy; The absent object. (in Collected Papers, Enquiries in Psychoanalysis )

Money-Kyrle; Normal Countertransference and some of its deviations, (in Melanie Klein Today Vol 2. Mainly Practice)

O’Shaughnessy; Words and Working Through (in Collected Papers, Enquiries in Psychoanalysis )

Joseph; Transference: the Total Situation, (in Melanie Klein Today Vol 2. Mainly Practice)

O’Shaughnessy; Can a liar be psychoanalysed (in Collected Papers, Enquiries in Psychoanalysis )

Bion; Notes on memory and desire, (in Melanie Klein Today Vol 2. Mainly Practice)

Riesenberg-Malcolm; The 3 W’s , What Where and When, the rationale of interpretation. (in Collected Papers, On Bearing Unbearable States of Mind)


Seminar will be in English, with a translator if needed.


Michael Mercer is past Vice President of the British Psychoanalytical Society and a Fellow and Flexible Training Analyst. He is a past Chair of the Ethics Committee and of the Clinical Services Committee of the BPAS. He is a past Chair of the Professional Standards Committee of the British Psychoanalytic Council. He is a former Clinical Director of the Adult Department of the Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust. He was the senior manager of mental health services in Kensington and Chelsea in London. As well as his clinical work and supervision, he has a long-standing interest in organisations and the problems for professional in working together. He published Bearable or Unbearable: Unconscious communication in management (2008).