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Yerushalmi, H. (1999). Mutual Influences in Supervision. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(3):415-436.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(3):415-436

Mutual Influences in Supervision

Hanoch Yerushalmi, Ph.D.

The Place of Knowledge in Therapy and Supervision

CONTEMPORARY PSYCHOANALYSTS are experiencing a crisis in their attitudes toward knowledge concerning the structure and development of the psyche and the meaning of various events in the therapy and life of the patient. There are a number of reasons for this development. First is the coexistence of many competing schools of thought and interpretive systems, each with its own principles and claims about objective truth (Mitchell, 1993). Second is a shift from a belief in the therapist's sole possession of truth to a view of the therapist as perceiving one of various possible truths about the patient's experience.

Mitchell has expressed one of the more firm views on this perception of the importance of theoretical knowledge: “Whereas earlier generations of psychoanalysts prided themselves on knowing and being brave enough to know, the current generation of psychoanalytic authors tend increasingly to stress the value of not knowing and the courage that it requires” (p. 42). Thus the state of not knowing has come to be perceived as the braver and more significant stance in therapy. Although therapists are still expected to acquire clinical, theoretical, and research knowledge, their use of this learning has changed. Application of theoretical knowledge to the understanding of the experiences, circumstances, and psychic structure of patients is much more tentative and cautious, and is informed by an awareness of the relativity and bias that characterizes all knowledge.

It is inevitable that such a profound change in the approach to knowledge in therapy must eventually alter perceptions of the concept of knowledge in supervision. This is relevant to understanding what actually occurs in therapy sessions, the significance of the therapeutic experiences of


I wish to thank Malcolm Slavin, Ph.D., Jonathan Slavin, Ph.D., and Miki Rahmani, M. A. for their helpful comments on this essay.

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