Conceptual and clinical research

Dreher, A. U. (2002). Psychoanalytische Konzeptforschung und psychoanalytische empirische Forschung: das Beispiel "psychisches Trauma". In: Giampieri-Deutsch, P. (Hrsg.) Psychoanalyse im Dialog der Wissenschaften. Europäische Perspektiven. Kohlhammer.

Dreher, A. U. (2005) Conceptual research. In: Textbook of Psychoanalysis (pp. 361-372). American Psychiatric Publishing. Edited by ES Person, AM Cooper, and GO Gabbard. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

Dreher, A. U. (2010) Pluralism in theory and in research—and what now? A plea for connectionism. In: M. Leuzinger-Bohleber, J. Canestri, and M. Target (Eds.), Early development and Its disturbances: Clinical, conceptual and empirical research on ADHD and other psychopathologies and its epistemological reflections (pp. 239-266). London, Karnac Books.

Dreher, A. U. (2015) Psychoanalytic research with or without the psyche? Some remarks on the intricacies of clinical research. In: Boag S., Brakel L., Talvitie, V. (eds.) Philosophy, Science, and Psychoanalysis (pp. 219-246). London: Karnac.


Psychoanalysis as a treatment method not only has generated an abundance of empirical evidence, but also - as theoretical edifice - powerful concepts, which played an essential role in the discourses of the human sciences. Concepts do change; they live just like scientific language games in general live. When the 'world' changes, when there are new clinical observations or extra-clinical empirical findings, this can influence the meaning of familiar concepts. Such constant change of meaning in the course of theoretical development, sometimes can lead to substantial differentiations, sometimes to school specific concept usages up to completely different ones.

In our psychoanalytic concepts an essential nucleus of clinical, empirically based knowledge is preserved and psychoanalysis is dependent upon attempts to constantly clarify their meaning. Conceptual research – as an ongoing research program – enables us to take such a decentred perspective on concepts through systematically reconstructing and critically discussing such changes of a concept in their respective conceptual fields and to possibly propose ways to a more homogeneous usage of central psychoanalytic concepts.

Thus, it is of fundamental significance, that whatever kind of empirical data as also the use of concepts, their role and function in psychoanalysis, should be subject of psychoanalytic research. Emphasis is on the interrelatedness and interdependency of empirical and conceptual research activities for the development of psychoanalysis as a human science.


Dr. Anna Ursula Dreher

Sternstraße 6, D-60318 Frankfurt am Main

Phone: +49 (0)69 - 59 63 682