Glossary:  Alphabetical glossary of new terms in psychoanalysis, defining new discoveries and new observations of psychological phenomena in the field of communicative psychoanalysis. 

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By U. Berns
Reprinted with the permission by the publisher from
"Communicative Psychoanalysis With Children" by V. A. Bonac, 2000,
Whurr Publishers, London, UK

(NOTE: Some of the communicative terms in this Glossary define complex psychological processes which are explained in more detail in Part I, ‘The Communicative Theory of Psycho-Analytic Technique’ and in Part III, ‘The Empirical Ethics’ of the book "Communicative Psychoanalysis With Children" by V. A. Bonac.)

Adaptational-interactional viewpoint

It is both a meta-psychological hypothesis and a clinical approach. The meta-psychological hypothesis maintains that the most compelling motivation is to adapt to the reality of the environment and especially to the interpersonal reality on both levels: conscious and unconscious. This remains true for one's whole life, from birth to death. The adaptive processes take into account the historical adaptive processes and their outcome, that is, the psychic structures built up to that point. Thus, such view implies a developmental perspective. In the clinical situation the most compelling adaptive motivation is for the patient to adapt to the therapist. Insofar as the adaptational-interactional theory, together with a developmental perspective, take into account both intra-psychic and interactional processes, this theory is at variance with other psychoanalytic theories of motivation.

Adaptive Context / Intervention Context

According to the adaptational-interactional viewpoint the adaptive context is the specific real event which evokes an intra-psychic response. Thus, the adaptive context and the psychic structure co-define each other. The intra-apsychic and the communicative responses of a patient show whether an adaptive context has any specific neurotic or non-neurotic meaning for the patient. In the first case the response can become conscious for the whole range of meanings implied. In this case, the response itself is direct and linear. In other cases the responses are indirect, convoluted complex and unconscious. These intra-psychic responses are expressed also with narratives and images as well as by symptoms which are the consequence of the unconscious process of analyzing and ascribing meaning. We distinguish between primary and secondary adaptive contexts. Primary adaptive contexts are contained in the manifest interventions of the therapist as implications of interventions. Secondary adaptive contexts are those events in the patient's every day life which are of emotional importance for the patient. Generally, in the therapeutic session the primary adaptive contexts are much more important to the patient. It is exactly these adaptive contexts that activate unconscious introjects and memories. Thus, they have the power to produce symptoms and resistances in the patient.

Break in the frame

A break means that one or several components of the frame were changed from their secure, 'ideal', state. Clinically, these changes are unconsciously evaluated by the patient in comparison with an ideally effective state of the frame of therapy. In the course of therapy the patient often manifestly proposes that certain components of the frame be kept broken. This from of inter-personal pressure on the therapist is usually introduced by the patient in order to get much needed healing responses from the therapist. From the communicative point of view, the unconscious meaning and the reasons for the patient's frame modifications ultimately aim at enabling the patient to install the ideal frame condition himself or herself. This part of working-through is the essential part of healing in psychotherapy.

Communicative Interpretation

Generally speaking, a communicative interpretation means such verbal communication from the psycho-analyst /psycho-therapist to the patient which renders the unconscious meanings of the patients verbal communication and of behavior - conscious. In the communicative approach to derivatively expressed psycho-analysis the term is defined more precisely. A communicative interpretation illuminates the connections between three components of any interpretation: the adaptive contexts, the network of derivatives, and the intent to secure the frame. The communicative therapist aims at explaining the symptoms and resistances to the patient by making use of the patient's narratives (free associations). The symptoms and resistances are described derivatively and can be such neurotic or non-neurotic responses to the implications of the therapist's interventions (i.e., the primary adaptive contexts) which were processed unconsciously by the patient. Among the interventions of the therapist the frame modifications are of utmost importance. If the patient has communicated meaningful extra-analytic events (i.e., the secondary adaptive contexts) these ought to be first considered as the primary adaptive contexts for the session, that is as relevant triggers in therapy. Such free associations as are identified as psycho-genetical (historical) narratives are understood as memories and past introjects, activated by both adaptive contexts. They have to be introduced into the interpretation to help the patient understand his or her history. For the therapist, the ultimate aim of a communicative interpretation is always to achieving the explicitly therapeutic aim. This means that the therapist interprets in order to rendering the patient's symptoms and resistances unnecessary. The aim is achieved by using the patient's own insight into his or her actual relational experience with the therapist. (See Part I. in the book "Communicative Psychoanalysis With Children" by V. A. Bonac.)


A term coined by Freud used for those manifest verbal and non-verbal communications which carry a hidden, latent meaning. Derivatives are formed unconsciously as a result of the unconscious processing of the meaning of unconscious perceptions, memories, beliefs and introjects, and may be expressed as free associations. They are narratives, images or creative play just like Freud's prototype of a derivative, the dream. The formation and transformation of the latent into the manifest content in the shape of images, narratives and play comes about through the activity of the primary process. Considered from the perspective of the secondary process thinking, derivatives are the outcome of unconscious displacement, symbolization, and condensation. Derivatives and symptoms are the hallmark of neurosis and psychosis.

Derivative Complex / Network of Derivative

A term which signifies a multitude of derivatives communicated freely by the patient in session, as they reveal a variety of different latent meanings of one or more adaptive contexts (primary or secondary).

Derivatives- close, distant

Derivatives are built in the deep unconscious of our minds from unconscious perceptions, beliefs, activated memories and introjects by using the 'language' of the primary process. The less they are pre-consciously defended against, the more readily they are detectable and understandable by the therapist - called close derivatives. The more they are pre-consciously defended against, the harder it is to understand them and to use them for interpretations. Such derivatives are called distant.


A metaphor for the basic conditions and the implicitly and explicitly agreed upon ground rules and boundaries of psychotherapy. Just as the frame of a picture marks it off from its surroundings so the basic conditions and ground rules distinguish the therapeutic interactions from other social interactions. The canon of the frame elements which is under clinical conditions unconsciously evaluated as 'ideal' by the patient provides the most basic hold for both the patient and the therapist. At the same time, certain components of this 'ideal' frame may be anxiety provoking for the patients and the therapists as a consequence of their traumata, which drive them to break the ideal frame. (See Part I. in the book "Communicative Psychoanalysis With Children" by V. A. Bonac.)


The language of images and themes, contained in narratives, is a primary language to every human being in addition to the secondary process language(s). Freud first described it in the Interpretation of Dreams. Most images are derivatives of deep unconscious processing of information. Thus, they are the essential key to the understanding of the patient for the communicatively oriented psycho-analyst. It is imperative that the therapist tells apart positive images from the negative ones in order that they can be used in the process of any clinical validation of hypotheses.


The indictors of the patient's distress communicate to the therapist that the patient needs help in the understanding and the resolution by way of an intervention by the therapist. Indicators are either symptoms of all kinds, or resistances which include breaks in the frame. It is often difficult to differentiate sharply between them. The term is synonymous with the therapeutic context which is an important organizer of the patient's material for the therapist. Given the adaptive context (the triggering event) as a first organizer, and the complex of derivatives, the therapist can organize the patient's material a second time when the patient communicates one or more therapeutic contexts or breaks the frame.

Model of Rectification

When the therapy frame is broken the associations of the patient may contain derivative hints about how the frame should be corrected in order to be brought to the 'ideal' condition. Such model of rectification is the result of the patient's unconscious analysis of meaning. The patient's unconscious aim is to obtain a frame within which he or she will feel safely held and thus provide the conditions necessary for therapeutic work. (See Part I. in the book "Communicative Psychoanalysis With Children" by V. A. Bonac)


This term is needed to differentiate the unconscious responses which are not transferential from the patient's transference. The term makes clear that not all of the patient's unconscious responses belong to transference. In communicative psycho-analysis, great emphasis is given to the therapist's task to distinguish between transference and non-transference in order to protect the patient from being driven crazy.


To the classical concept of resistance, communicative psychoanalysis has added the concept of communicative resistance. Communicative resistance is discovered by an analysis of the patient's communicative network. A fully developed communicative network consists of the folowing: (1) the adaptive contexts with a link to the therapist, (2) the complex of derivatives and (3) indicators. The patient's failure to fully develop one or more of the constituents of this network is regarded as a communicative resistance. It is possible to be more certain that the patient is displaying communicative resistance, when the therapist is able to identify such implications of his or her recent interventions which have served, at least partially, as the triggers for communicative resistance. Conversely, if the therapist is not able to detect any contributions from a recent intervention the assessment of resistance was perhaps not warranted.


A theme is the derivative thematic content that can be condensed from the freely associated narratives, images or creative play. The process of the identification of individual themes out of the derivative complex is an indispensable skill for communicative psychotherapy. It is part of the translation process from the language of the primary-process derivatives into the language of the secondary process thinking. It has some similarity to the understanding of symbols and metaphors. If the identification process results in themes which can be recognized as the implications of the therapist's interventions the therapist may assume to have found important unconscious perceptions and perhaps responses to these perceptions. Positively tinged images may be signs of validation of the therapist's interventions whereas negatively tinged images may be signs of falsification of the interventions.


In communicative psychoanalysis, transference is the unconscious pathological component of the patient's response to the therapist's intervention. It is of great theoretical and practical importance to identify the amount of pathological input of the therapist in order to be able to identify the patient's response to it as a transference response. The traditional psycho-analytical definition of transference is not only vague and inconsistent, most of the psycho-analytic literature uses the term to describe the total relationship between the therapist and the patient. Communicative research has shown that much of what has been described as 'transference' in clinical cases was in fact found to be non-transference and included valid unconscious perceptions by the patient. The communicative process of transference is manifested only under very specific conditions and within a definite sequence of events. (See part I. in the book "Communicative Psychoanalysis With Children" by V. A. Bonac)

For Freud, the patient under the influence of transference misunderstands the present in terms of the past. Instead of remembering his infantile wishes the patient strives unconsciously to re-live the past with the analyst and to re-live it more satisfactorily than in his childhood. This impulse to relive the past comes from within the patient, is always inappropriate, a resistance and a repetition of the past.

The communicative definition of transference-proper (Bonac, 1998 – listed in References in the book "Communicative Psychoanalysis With Children" by V. A. Bonac.) says that it is an intra-psychic phenomenon which becomes observable in the bi-personal field of therapy as a response to the patient’s own intent to secure the analytic frame in the absence of the pathological contributions from interpersonal sources, all this within the context of the therapist’s constant offer of an ideal analytic frame'. According to this definition, transference includes both of Freud's discoveries, the trauma and the seduction theories of patho-genesis when they are placed in a strict temporal sequence of the changes in the inter-personal frame.

Unconscious Communication

Communicative psychotherapists focus on the patient's unconscious communications, i.e. on the primary process communications in order to grasp the unconscious meaning of symptoms and resistances. In primary process communication, i.e. communication via derivatives, the patient tells the therapist meanings of which the patient is not initially aware. The primary process language can be called the primary language of human beings.

Unconscious Perception

Freud believed that all perceptions at first are conscious and only later become unconscious by the automatic process of repression. Contrary to Freud's belief, it has been shown empirically that the important perceptions of the communications from others, as well as the many implications of their manifest communications, are validly perceived on the unconscious level. Most importantly for the therapist, the derivative communications about identified adaptive contexts (triggering events) demonstrate valid unconscious perceptions of the trigger by the patient.


The possibility to have psychoanalytic hypotheses confirmed in the course of the session by the patient is of utmost importance to psychotherapy. Validation is an unconscious response by the patient to a correct intervention by the therapist and represents a means to reach the truth about a specific intervention and, ultimately, the truth about a specific psychoanalytic theory. Clinically, it has been shown that patients confirm indirectly, i.e. unconsciously, only correct interpretations, adequate silences and certain acts of rectification of the frame by the therapist. A valid interpretation always includes two components. On the one hand, it restructures the patient's material so that it is understood in a new way. On the other hand, the patient gains the experience that the therapist has done the work in a consistent way and has put his or her person at the patient's disposal in a specific manner. When the therapist's intervention is correct, the two components are reflected in the patient's response: the helpful restructuring of the material is expressed by the patient in new material extending the therapist's interpretation. This is called cognitive validation or validation via a selected fact. The successful digestion of the material on part of the therapist is expressed by the patient derivatively in images and feelings of comfort and security, joy, freedom from symptoms or a reduction of symptoms etc. Langs calls this "interpersonal validation" or "validation by an evoked positive introject". (See also Part I, The Communicative Theory of Psycho-Analytic Technique and Part III, The Empirical Ethics in the book "Communicative Psychoanalysis With Children" by V. A. Bonac.)

Validation Process

The validation process is a crucial element of the therapist's listening process and the hallmark of communicative psychoanalysis. Complete validation consists of the inter-personal and the cognitive validation. It is a deciphering process, for which the therapist uses the theoretical knowledge, the patient's validating (or falsifying) response in the following free associations as well as the therapist's own emotional and cognitive responses - and subjects all of this to the deciphering process. Only such interventions which have been validated by the patient unconsciously are considered correct interpretations (See Part I. in the book "Communicative Psychoanalysis With Children" by V. A. Bonac.)