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Beitel, M. Blauvelt, K.S. Barry, D.T. Cecero, J.J. (2005). Abstracts of the 2005 Poster Session of the American Psychoanalytic Association Winter Meeting: The Structure of Psychological Mindedness. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 53(4):1301-1305.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Abstracts of the 2005 Poster Session of the American Psychoanalytic Association Winter Meeting: The Structure of Psychological Mindedness
(2005). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 53(4):1301-1305
Psychological mindedness (PM) is a psychoanalytic personality construct that implies awareness and understanding of mental life. The psychologically minded person identifies, labels, and constructively
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organizes thoughts and feelings as perceived in self and in others. As a psychological explanatory style, PM draws on these thoughts and feelings to account for behavior (e.g., “I did it because I was angry”). This style stands in sharp contrast to a biological explanatory style in which a person explains his or her actions based on biological mechanisms (“I did it because I have a chemical imbalance)” or a religious conception (“The devil made me do it”).
The construct of PM has been used in clinical settings to select patients for psychodynamic therapy. PM has also been seen as a desirable quality in psychotherapists and psychotherapy trainees. The clinical importance of PM has been supported in several empirical studies of psychotherapy process and outcome: high PM patients are more engaged in the treatment process and receive greater benef its from psychodynamically informed psychotherapy (Conte and Ratto 1997; McCallum and Piper 1997).
In her review of the diverse literature on PM, Hall (1992) noted that theorists tend to conceptualize the construct along two dimensions—either as an interest or as an ability—and targeting either affect or cognition. Of course, PM may be applied to self or to others (Farber 1985). The Hall model represents a great advance in the theory of PM. However, we found that the model does not explicitly distinguish between awareness of psychological experience (e.g., “I am aware that I am angry”) and understanding of that experience (“I am angry because my manuscript was rejected”). Therefore, we sought to create a comprehensive model of PM by adding a third dimension that explicitly captures the distinction between psychological awareness and understanding.
We hope that this structural model will guide the theory and measurement of PM, as well as advance the clinical assessment of PM in patients. The model is composed of modes, domains, and stages of PM. The mode captures the distinction between PM as an ability and as an interest. We see ability and interest exerting reciprocal and limiting influences on each other. For example, the patient who has an interest but lacks the ability to think psychologically may not perform well in psychodynamic treatment. Conversely, the patient who has the ability but lacks interest (due to resistance or to habit) in psychologically minded thinking may have similar difficulties.
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The domain refers to the type of psychological data to be considered: here a gross distinction between cognition and affect is made. We recognize, however, that most psychological events are complex blends of cognition and affect. For example, wishes, drives, and intentions contain both cognitive and affective material. For the purpose of the model, we are simply attempting to distinguish between a predominantly cognitive or affective domain.
The stage of PM distinguishes between awareness and understanding of psychological phenomena. Awareness of mental contents involves the perception of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Understanding involves an appreciation of the relationships between mental contents. If awareness is the “what,” then understanding is the “why.” Awareness is seen as a necessary precondition for psychological understanding, since one must be aware that psychological data exist in order to understand the relationships between them.
The three-dimensional model creates eight components of PM toward self and others (see Figure 1): 1 = Interest in being Aware of Cognition; 2 = Interest in being Aware of Af fect; 3 = Interest in Understanding Cognition; 4 = Interest in Understanding Af fect; 5 = Ability to be Aware of Cognition; 6 = Ability to be Aware of Affect; 7 = Ability to Understand Cognition; 8 = Ability to Understand Affect.
Figure 1. The Structure of Psychological Mindedness
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Given the comprehensive nature of the model, it would be unlikely for any particular scholar to study all of the components simultaneously; because researchers are in fact working with different aspects of PM, they are urged to specify what part of “the elephant” they are working with at any given time. For example, our lab has been using the PM Scale (Conte et al. 1990), which as a self-report measure tends to tap the interest mode. In a recent study (Beitel, Ferrer, and Cecero 2005), we examined the relationship between PM and empathy (defined as awareness of cognition and af fect in others). This provided the opportunity to study the first and second cells in our model (interest in being aware of cognition and affect).
Implications and Discussion
Knowing the facets of PM that we are studying allows for a more precise understanding of our research findings and their implications for the construct. It also allows us to compare our findings with the results of studies that may have examined very different aspects of PM. The proposed model provides a road map to guide theory, research, and the clinical assessment of PM. Specifically, PM offers psychoanalytic clinical researchers a rich, psychometrically sound process variable that could be used to understand more fully the workings of psychoanalytic treatment and to compare psychoanalysis to other psychotherapies. In addition, PM measures may provide psychoanalytic researchers outcome data that take into account the complexity of psychoanalysis, given the increased emphasis on evidence-based treatments in current clinical practice.
BEITEL, M., FERRER, E., & CECERO, J.J. (2005). Psychological mindedness and awareness of self and others. Journal of Clinical Psychology 61: 739-750. [Related→]
CONTE, H.R., PLUTCHIK, R., JUNG, B.B., PICARD, S., KARASU, T.B., & LOTTERMAN, A. (1990). Psychological mindedness as a predictor of psychotherapy outcome: A preliminary report. Comprehensive Psychiatry 31: 426-431. [Related→]
CONTE, H.R., PLUTCHIK, R., JUNG, B.B., PICARD, S., KARASU, T.B., & LOTTERMAN, A. & RATTO, R. (1997). Self-report measures of psychological mindedness. In Psychological Mindedness: A Contemporary Understanding, ed. M. McCallum & W.E. Piper. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 1-26. [Related→]
FARBER, B.A. (1985). The genesis, development and implications of psycho-logical-mindedness in psychotherapists. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, & Practice 22: 170-177. [Related→]
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HALL, J. A. (1992). Psychological-mindendess: A conceptual model. Am. J. Psychother. 46: 131-140.
MCCALLUM, M., & PIPER, W.E. (1997). The Psychological Mindedness Assessment Procedure. In Psychological Mindedness: A Contemporary Understanding, ed. M. McCallum & W.E. Piper. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 27-58. [Related→]
Beitel, M., Blauvelt, K.S., Barry, D.T. and Cecero, J.J. (2005). Abstracts of the 2005 Poster Session of the American Psychoanalytic Association Winter Meeting. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 53(4):1301-1305