"Fourth analysis" (l'analyse quatrième), a contribution of the French Fourth Group, or OPLF (French-Language Psychoanalytical Organization), is a new approach to the part of analytic training traditionally known in psychoanalytic societies as "control" or "supervised" analysis. "Thus fourth analysis is in the first place a theory of the control analysis and of the conditions of supervision — a theory never outlined until now — that takes into account the entire group of figures and persons involved in it, as well as their visible and hidden interactions" (Topique, 1983). The term "fourth" refers not only to the Fourth Group itself, but also to the number of protagonists, namely, the analysand, the analyst, the analyst's analyst, and the analyst who carries out the fourth analysis.
The term fourth analysis did not appear in the Fourth Group's "Principles and Modalities of Functioning" (or "Blue Book" ), even though the idea of a "multi-referential" analysis effectively prefigured it. Such a multi-referential analysis, it was felt, was an adequate characterization of a key moment of analytic training, always assuring that training was not to be reduced to some kind of academic "curriculum." "Indeed, as soon as the candidate takes on his or her first patient, it is no longer the didactic contract, but also the clinical experience, with all its unknowns, that regulates the relation of the subject to the unconscious. Thus the patient, who is only spoken of indirectly, confronts three analysts with the partiality (in both senses) of their knowledge: the novice, who is striving towards mastery, but also the supervisor and the didactician" (Topique, 1969). It is notable that these were still the very terms that the Fourth Group would later question, specifically the term supervisor, which is replaced by fourth analyst, and didactician, which would become "the analyst of the analyst".
Stress on the multi-referential serves in the first place to highlight and to clarify the harmful effects specific to this plurality when it is not recognized as such. For example, playing the didactician and the supervisor off against each other, or making what one expects from the patient dependent on what one might want to hear or on what one thinks the supervisor wants to hear. Hence the formula that gave birth to the term fourth analysis: "There are three chairs and a fourth unconscious, which language does not express fully in known dialects" (Topique, 1969).
At the same time, the multi-referentiality specific to fourth analysis is not limited to it, which leads to the necessity of organizing "interanalytic sessions" with other analysts of the Fourth Group and possibly analysts from other societies. "The exemplary character of this four-term situation does not exhaust the diversity of third-party references. The candidate must be able, according to his or her own analytical, theoretical, and clinical progress, to organize in due course debates of variable lengths with other analysts" (Topique, 1969).
In the supplement to the "Blue Book" produced by the Fourth Group's 1970 congress, dedicated mainly to the notion of the "didactic effect," the term fourth analysis is defined as follows: "The discipline of fourth analysis based on multi-referentiality implies access to the conditions that make the didactic affect possible: not just some regulatory mechanism designed to facilitate experimentation, scholarship, or initiation, but what may be called a topography....To become an analyst is to gain access to this tetra-dimensionality of Freudian training as a process" (Topique, 1971).
This points up the important idea that the didactic effect is constructed in a dialectical movement made possible by the shift from a dual relation to a fourfold one. The risk of a major alienation, that is, alienation in knowledge, can thus be counteracted and the didactic effect is defined as never being the direct consequence of the transmission of knowledge.
In 1979, Jean-Paul Valabrega, who had participated in drafting the "Blue Book" in 1969 and 1970, undertook a more thoroughgoing theorization of fourth analysis (Valabrega, 1979), which he defined as a "theory of supervision." He set out "to better delimit the 'analytic material' itself and above all to prevent its potential loss, to insure as much as possible against its unintended erasure" (Topique, 1983).
The principle of the fourth analysis has not been modified further. On the other hand, it has been integrated into the greater aim of emphasizing the crucial consideration of the transference and counter-transference. The work being carried out on the analysis of the analyst on the basis of fourth analysis allows for, or at least contributes to, a limitation of counter-transferential effects in the treatment, notably the deafness towards the analysand that comes about when listening to oneself and not the other overwhelms the analyst's psychic space.
To reopen and to reinstitute, without ever taking as given what must be perceived as a process, is in fact the ideal not only of analytic training, but also of analytic practice, including that of established analysts. The existence, and even the necessity, of interanalytic sessions that bring several analysts face to face around a trainee constitutes a test of each one's clinical practice; and, at least in principle, it represents an abiding recommendation for every analyst after his or her accreditation. Fourth analysis and interactive sessions, by virtue of their very stringency, are an effective response to what Freud (1937c) said in "Analysis Terminable and Interminable" about the necessity of the analyst's putting his or her own analysis to work.