Skip to main content



Bion first mentioned a beta-screen in his description of the contact-barrier in Learning from Experience (pp. 17-23, 1962). A beta-screen forms when there is a deficiency in alpha-functioning and beta-elements replace the contact-barrier.

When a beta-screen is formed there is no communication between the conscious and unconscious. Rational thought up to a point can exist, but cut off from emotional meaning. A beta-screen forms an impenetrable barrier. It is a defense against any meaningful emotional experience. As the beta-screen is composed of beta-elements which lend themselves to projective identification, it also manifests itself in a bombardment directed both against the alpha-functioning of the patient himself and against any external object susceptible to arousing meaningful feelings. In analysis, the patient bombards the analyst with confused fragmentary material imbued with violence and directed against the analyst's attempt to get in touch with an emotionally significant experience.

Hanna Segal

See also: Beta-elements; Contact-barrier.


Bion, Wilfred R. (1962). Learning from experience. London: Heinemann; New York: Basic Books.

. (1963). Elements of psycho-analysis. London: Heinemann.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Beta-Screen." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . 21 Jul. 2019 <>.

"Beta-Screen." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . (July 21, 2019).

"Beta-Screen." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved July 21, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.