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September 1964

Social Significance of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy

Author Affiliations

Dr. Alexander died March 8, 1964.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1964;11(3):235-244. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1964.01720270007002

Psychotherapy, as all curative procedures in medicine, attempts to alleviate suffering by restoring to normal a disturbed function of the biological organism. Psychotherapy's target, however, in distinction to all other therapeutic targets has a central function: human behavior. While surgery and internal medicine try to rehabilitate such circumscribed functions as locomotion, digestion, blood circulation, hormonal secretion, and seeing, psychotherapy is concerned with personality functions, that is to say, the behavior of the total organism in its relation to the environment, particularly to the human environment. Here lies the special social goal.

For a long time the human personality was considered mainly determined by heredity. A person is born with certain basic characteristics and will die with them. Hippocrates' characterological theory of basic temperaments, which are determined by different distributions of body humors, had indeed a long hold on Western thought. Characterological features,

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