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Geist, R. (2007). Who are You, Who am I, and Where are We Going: Sustained Empathic Immersion in the Opening Phase of Psychoanalytic Treatment. Int. J. Psychoanal. Self Psychol., 2(1):1-26.

(2007). International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, 2(1):1-26

Who are You, Who am I, and Where are We Going: Sustained Empathic Immersion in the Opening Phase of Psychoanalytic Treatment

Richard Geist, ED.D.

There is a striking dearth of general, postmodern articles on the beginning phase of analytic treatment, and none that focus on how a particular analytic couple initially cocreates that risky, emerging therapeutic dialogue that will partially determine whether patient and analyst can reorganize their experience in ways that facilitate mutual growth and healing. In an effort to correct the lack of attention to this neglected but important phase of treatment, this article offers a way of listening and responding in the opening phase that is rooted in an unwavering empathic stance. It attempts to (a) define 3 overlapping modes of empathy and how they interweave as treatment commences; (b) explain why it is in the best interests of the patient and the analyst to remain immersed in an empathic stance during the opening phase; and (c) suggest how remaining in an empathic stance enables the analyst to use his or her subjectivity and authenticity in the service of the patient's growth. Using verbatim clinical material to illuminate how the analyst's initial, sustained, empathic inquiry (mediated through the analyst's own subjectivity) informs our understanding of the analytic endeavor, it delineates a clinical sensibility and theoretical-philosophical orientation that facilitates new patients remaining in and deepening the treatment.

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