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Ward, S. (2014). The Poet and the Psychotherapist: In Gratitude for the Life and Work of Seamus Heaney (1939-2013). Brit. J. Psychother., 30(4):475-483.

(2014). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 30(4):475-483

The Poet and the Psychotherapist: In Gratitude for the Life and Work of Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

Siobhan Ward

In this paper, I explore the question whether the inclusion in clinical training of a more observational and research-based approach focused on evidence of outcome, as advocated by Knox (2013), risks eroding the subjective experience which is at the heart of the analytic encounter. I suggest that psychotherapists have always had to maintain a dual perspective of objective observer and experiencing subject. I compare the duality of the psychotherapist and the duality of the poet, using the poetry of Seamus Heaney for illustration purposes. I refer to themes and values shared by psychotherapy and Heaney's poetry, which make this comparison especially apposite. I refer to Heaney's poetry to illustrate that the maintenance of objectivity need not be at the expense of subjectivity and that the tension between the two perspectives makes for creativity. I also refer to certain of Heaney's poems for their educational value in expressing eloquently certain key concepts and aims of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. I liken Heaney's inclusiveness and non-sectarianism to Knox's willingness to include within clinical trainings and practice an approach which seeks out and learns from research in other related disciplines.

[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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