Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Lacan, Jacques, 1901-1981, Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939, Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic interpretation, Symbolism (Psychology), Therapeutic action, Symbolic


This study was undertaken to determine the therapeutic action of working in the symbolic order. Lacan critiques psychoanalytic theory for reducing psychoanalysis to a therapy of the imaginary, thus ignoring the true significance of Freud's discovery. A review of contemporary accounts of therapeutic action established interpretation, the clinical relationship, and the position of the analyst as key identifiers of a theory of therapeutic action. The case of Dora was utilized to identify Freud's theory of therapeutic action. Lacan's critique of Freud's case in "Intervention on Transference" resulted in an explication of Lacan's theory of therapeutic action, particularly in regards to the differentiation of the imaginary and the symbolic. The study clarified the significance of the difference between working in the symbolic rather than the imaginary order. It was found that Lacanian theory and practice place a distinctive focus on unconscious desire, alterity, structure, and fantasy. The findings suggest that Lacanian theory and practice offer a unique alternative to contemporary accounts of therapeutic action. As such it is hoped that Lacanian theory and practice will be better represented and utilized in the field of clinical social work.




iv, 103 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 88-103)