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Mollon, P. (1987). What Kind of Infant does the Therapist Reconstruct? the View of the Infant from the Vantage Point of Self Psychology. Brit. J. Psychother., 4(2):173-182.

(1987). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 4(2):173-182

What Kind of Infant does the Therapist Reconstruct? the View of the Infant from the Vantage Point of Self Psychology

Phil Mollon

Probably every psychotherapist or psychoanalyst has an implicit model of psychopathology and an associated implicit model of childhood psychological and emotional development. The psychoanalytic therapist always sees the adult's current pathology as rooted in distortions in infantile development; the therapist's way of viewing his/her patient's communications will be influenced by their implicit model of early development, as will their view of the nature of the therapeutic process. It is always valuable therefore when a therapist or analyst is able to make explicit and to elaborate their model of psychopathology, of therapy and of early development; this helps the rest of us clarify some of our own assumptions. One such recent figure is Heinz Kohut, who in his development of ‘self psychology’ created what Stolorow (1983) and others have argued is a new ‘paradigm’ (Kuhn 1961) for psychoanalysis; Stolorow sees this as a conceptual shift from ‘the motivational primacy of instinctual drives to the motivational primacy of self experience’. Previously I have attempted to evaluate Kohut's contribution with particular reference to the theory and therapy of narcissistic disturbance against the background of British psychoanalytic theorising (Mollon 1987). The aim of the present paper is to draw out the implications of self psychology for understanding infancy, and to show how the infant reconstructed by a self psychologist differs from that reconstructed by other theorists.

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