In Pure Psychoanalysis, Applied Psychoanalysis, and Psychotherapy, Miller does a deep dive into what makes psychoanalysis different from psychotherapy. Miller highlights many things, but the text below strikes me as very important. (It is also connected to what I posted earlier here.)
In terms of psychotherapy, one could say: the subject reclaims an identification which lets it cope, and it suffers when this identification vacillates, is defective. The urgency is thus to restore it.
My description of what Miller is saying would be:
- In psychotherapy, the therapist works with the patient to claim or reclaim an identification. I think this means helping the patient to construct or patch up an identity that they claim as their identity.
- For example, a patient may identify as a Marxist or an artist. This identification provides the patient with a stabilizing way to orient themselves in the world, and it helps the patient determine who they are and where they are going as they live their lives. This is what is meant by an identification helping the subject (patient) cope with the suffering they experience as they live their lives.
- When an identification/identity vacillates, the subject suffers more; they become less stable and more on the edge of losing their grip on a sense of consistency in who they are and where they are going.
- Psychotherapy seeks to re-establish the stabilizing effect of the identification/identity. It could be said that psychotherapy works in the service of stabilizing identifications or in the establishment of an identity that the patient feels a strong emotional tie to.
In psychoanalysis it is not uncommon to work to break up identifications.