End of analysis

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French: [[fin d'analyse]]

Sigmund Freud

In Analysis Terminable and Interminable, Freud asks:

"Is there such a thing as a natural end to an analysis?"[1]

Jacques Lacan

Lacan's answer is that psychoanalytic treatment is a logical process with a beginning and an end-point, designated as the "end of analysis".


The end of analysis must be distinguished from the aim of psychoanalytic treatment.

The aim of treatment is to lead the analysand to articulate the truth about his or her desire.

While not all analyses are carried through to their conclusion, any analysis -- however incomplete -- may be regarded as successful when it achieves this aim.

The question of the end of analysis is therefore something more than whether a course of analytic treatment has or has not achieved its aim; it is a question of whether or not the treatment has reached its logical end-point.


Lacan conceives of this end-point in various ways.

1. In the early 1950s, Lacan describes the end of analysis as "the advent of a true speech and the realization by the subject of his history" -- that is, as coming to terms with one's own mortality.[2]

"The subject ... begins the analysis by speaking about himself without speaking to you, or by speaking to you without speaking about himself. When he can speak to you about himself, the analysis will be over."[3]

2. In 1960, Lacan describes the end of analysis as a state of anxiety and abandonment -- that is, as a state of helplessness.
3. In 1964, Lacan describes the end of analysis as the point when the analysand "traverses the radical fantasy."[4]
4. In the final decade of his teaching, Lacan describes the end of analysis as an "identification with the sinthome."

Position of Analysand and Analyst

In general, the end of analysis involves two fundamental changes in the respective subjective positions of

The analyst is reduced -- from the position of the subject-supposed-to-know -- to a mere surplus, a objet petit a, the cause of the analysand's desire.

Passage from Analysand to Analyst

For Lacan, the end of analysis is also the passage from analysand to analyst -- for all psychoanalysts must undergo analytic treatment from beginning to end before being allowed to practice as analysts.

Since Lacan argues that all psychoanalysts should have experienced the process of analytic treatment from beginning to end, the end of analysis is also the passage from analysand to analyst.

"The true termination of an analysis" is therefore no more and no less than that which "prepares you to become an analyst."[5]


Identification with the Analyst

Lacan criticizes those psychoanalysts who describe the end of analysis in terms of identification with the analyst.

For Lacan, it is not only possible, but necessary to go beyond identification, for otherwise it is not psychoanalysis but suggestion -- which is the antithesis of psychoanalysis.


Lacan also criticizes those psychoanalysts who describe the end of analysis in terms of "liquidation" of the transference.

For Lacan, this erroneous view is based on a misunderstanding of transference -- as a kind of illusion which can be transcended -- which overlooks the symbolic nature of transference -- as an essential structure of speech.

Although analytic treatment does involve the resolution of the particular transference relationship established with the analyst, transference itself still subsists after the end of analysis.

Other Misconceptions

The end of analysis does not involve:

For Lacan, analysis is not essentially a therapeutic process but rather a search for truth -- and the truth is not always beneficial.[6]

See Also


  1. Freud, Sigmund. Analysis Terminable and Interminable, 1937. SE XXIII p.219
  2. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 88
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 373, n. 1
  4. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 273
  5. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 303
  6. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XVII. L'envers de la psychanalyse, 19669-70. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 122