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Trop, J.L. (1995). Chapter 2 Self Psychology and Intersubjectivity Theory. Progress in Self Psychology, 11:31-45.

(1995). Progress in Self Psychology, 11:31-45

Chapter 2 Self Psychology and Intersubjectivity Theory

Jeffrey L. Trop, M.D.

The purpose of this chapter is to compare and contrast the clinical theories of self psychology and intersubjectivity. Self psychology and intersubjectivity theory are often seen as synonymous or on a continuum. There are broad and extremely important similarities between the two theories, but there are also important differences between them that have significant clinical implications.

Self psychology and intersubjectivity theory stand together in that both are relational theories and both reject the concept of drive as a primary motivational source. Also, both theories use the stance of empathy and introspection as a central guiding principle. However, the motivational theories of self psychology and intersubjectivity theory differ significantly. The motivational theory of self psychology is centered in the concept of the selfobject. In two significant review papers, entitled The Selfobject Theory of Motivation and the History of Psychoanalysis and Selfobjects and Selfobject Transference: Theoretical Implications, Basch (1984a, b) summarizes the centrality of the selfobject concept for self psychology. In the second paper, describing Kohut's discovery of selfobject transferences, he states:

Together he called them selfobject transferences, differentiating them from object-instinctual transferences, and indicating that they represented aspects of the development of the self…. Indeed, he found that the interpretation and resolution of the selfobject transferences did not lead to formation and resolution of an oedipal transference and then to object love, but to a maturation in the area of ambition and ideals that left the patient free … to lead a life that was satisfying and meaningful to him or her [p. 25].

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