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Wallerstein, R.S. (1985). How Does Self Psychology Differ in Practice?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 66:391-404.

(1985). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 66:391-404

How Does Self Psychology Differ in Practice?

Robert S. Wallerstein


In his third and posthumous book, How Does Analysis Cure?, Kohut completes the clinical and theoretical system of self psychology as a self-contained psychoanalytic psychology, different in crucial ways from what he calls 'traditional analysis'. It is a psychology of the supraordinate self and its developmental struggle for cohesion, with a psychopathology and a therapy based on conceptions of deficit and of restoration rather than of conflict and its resolution. Within this framework many usually central psychoanalytic conceptualizations are diminished, the roles of drives and defences, the Oedipus complex as the organizing nodal point of character development, the nature of defence and resistance analysis, etc. Many psychoanalytic

critics of self psychology see it, in its clinical application, as but a species of (supportive) psychotherapy rather than proper psychoanalysis. My contention is rather that the same kinds of infiltrations by psychotherapeutic manoeuvres and interventions can be found in classical analysis as well, when subjected to the same intensive scrutiny. I therefore regard Kohut's self psychology not as a psychotherapy as compared with proper analysis, but rather as a new and variant theoretical school of psychoanalysis. I had hoped that the clinical insights of self psychology could have been integrated into the mainstream of classical psychoanalysis—as an enriching supplementation—rather than being directed off (Kohut's choice) into new theory formation and yet another separate theoretical perspective and 'school' within the corpus of psychoanalysis.

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