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Searles, H.F. (1963). The Place of Neutral Therapist-Responses in Psychotherapy with the Schizophrenic Patient. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 44:42-56.

(1963). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 44:42-56

The Place of Neutral Therapist-Responses in Psychotherapy with the Schizophrenic Patient

Harold F. Searles

I. Introduction

In this paper I shall first detail the results of various sensory-deprivation experiments, as reported in the literature, and shall then compare the experience of the normal subject in these experiments with the experience of the person who is suffering from chronic schizophrenia. Next I shall show that although there are many similarities between schizophrenic experience on the one hand, and sensory-deprivation experience on the other hand, this does not mean that the therapist in working with the schizophrenic patient should endeavour, consistently and vigorously, to provide him with abundant sensory experiences—by being, for example, consistently 'active' and emotionally responsive to him—for, as I shall attempt to demonstrate, the patient's subjective sensory-deprivation has a defensive function, and it therefore will be meeting one of the patient's real emotional needs if the therapist, while being in general more emotionally responsive than he generally is with the neurotic patient, will none the less supply the patient, not infrequently, with emotionally neutral responses.

I wish to emphasize that this paper is not an attempt to prescribe to my fellow-therapists how they should react in working with the schizophrenic patient; it is an attempt, rather, to help them to become freer, as I have gradually by dint of hard struggle become freer, to react in the ways in which the psychotherapeutic process, between therapist and schizophrenic patient, inherently tends to require the therapist to become free to react, as that process unfolds.

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