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Wright, H. (1987). Intuition and Therapy: A Description of the Process of Intuition, its Origins within the Maternal Relationship and its Role in Therapy. Brit. J. Psychother., 3(3):246-255.

(1987). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 3(3):246-255

Personal Viewpoint

Intuition and Therapy: A Description of the Process of Intuition, its Origins within the Maternal Relationship and its Role in Therapy

Harry Wright


The ability to intuit is what enables the therapist to receive, contain, process and return projected material to the patient. The readiness with which any therapist responds to this form of unconscious communication must be linked to his own experiences of infancy and earlier. Perhaps one of the more important functions of a training analysis, or the therapist's personal treatment, is to ensure that the therapist has a ‘good enough’ first-hand experience of having been contained in this way. The skill with which a mother intuits her child's needs and wants, and the balance she is able to bring into her response to these often conflictual pressures must influence the quality of the child's later relations. The ability to intuit, when seen in this light, is of primary importance to the healthy development of the child.

For this reason much of therapy is the giving of a more satisfactory experience of containment to the patient, which the therapist is able to achieve because of his ability to be intuitively aware of his patient's needs, his wants, and where the balance between them lies.

In Attention and Interpretation Bion (1970) wrote:

…the physician is dependent on the realisation of sensuous experience in contrast with the psychoanalyst whose dependence is on experience that is not sensuous. The physician can see and touch and smell. The realisations with which a psycho-analyst deals cannot be seen or touched; anxiety has no shape, colour, smell or sound.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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