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Ego Mechanisms of Defense

A Guide for Clinicians and Researchers

George E. Vaillant, M.D.

  • ISBN 978-0-88048-404-6
  • Item #8404


Not since Anna Freud’s 1937 book, The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, has any one volume explored this topic as fully as Ego Mechanisms of Defense by George E. Vaillant.

By summarizing the latest empirical studies, proposing a universal language of defense mechanisms, and demonstrating how various assessment methods can be used in diagnosis, case formulation, and treatment, Dr. Vaillant and an interdisciplinary group of contributors provide the groundwork for clinical practice as well as future research in the field.


  • Clinical Applications.

    The historical origins of Sigmund Freud’s concept of the mechanisms of defense. The place of defense mechanisms in diagnostic formulation and in modern clinical practice. The need for a uniform nomenclature for defenses. The clinical management of immature defenses in the treatment of individuals with personality disorders.

    Empirical Studies.

    The struggle for empirical assessment of defenses. Empirical evidence that defensive styles are independent of environmental influence. An empirical study of defensive styles: the Defense Style Questionnaire. A cross-validation of two methods of investigating defenses. Toward reliability in identifying ego defenses: clinical techniques. An approach to evaluating adolescent ego defense mechanisms using clinical interviews. What do cross-sectional measures of defense mechanisms predict? A Q-sort approach to identifying defenses.

    Appendixes. Seven Assessment Schemes for Defense Mechanisms.

    DSM-III-R glossary of defense mechanisms. Meissner’s glossary of defenses. Vaillant’s glossary of defenses. Perry’s Defense Mechanism Rating Scale. Ego Defense Mechanisms Manual (Jacobson et al.). Bond’s Defense Style Questionnaire (DSQ). Vaillant’s modification of the Haan Q-sort.

This book is at once thorough, creative, and enticing. . . This book is quite an important offering. Clinicians can benefit from the wisdom imparted in the chapter on clinical management of immature defenses, researchers from the summaries of the empirical studies, and educators from the whole work as a guide to thinking about patients in a most humane and empirically supported way.—American Journal of Psychiatry

Dr. George Vaillant is, in the tradition of Anna Freud and Elvin Semrad, an international authority in empirical research on the nature of defense mechanisms and their elaboration into personality traits.—Hospital and Community Psychiatry

In this clearly conceptualized, useful, and well-written book, George Vaillant discusses defense mechanisms from both a clinical and a research perspective.—Social Work: Journal of the National Association of Social Workers

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