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Teicholz, J.G. (2001). Introduction. Progress in Self Psychology, 17:xiii-xvi.

(2001). Progress in Self Psychology, 17:xiii-xvi


Judith Guss Teicholz, ED.D.

We are, I think, at a crossroads in self psychology. Over the past decade and a half, Kohut's legacy has been enlivened and enriched by exchanges of influence among the multiple theories under self psychology's broadened umbrella, as well as by increasing opportunities for debate between proponents of self psychology and other psychoanalytic theories. But even as these developments have contributed to self psychology's vitality, they have also threatened to dilute its central tenets. For instance, a continuing demand for the teaching of self psychology outside of a rigorous, depth-analytic training would seem to reflect its usefulness across expanding contexts, but it also means that some of self psychology's complexities will get lost for many of those being introduced to its concepts. Additionally, analysts-in-training often learn self psychology as one of many analytic paradigms being taught by instructors neither deeply versed in nor appreciative of its intricacies. For these and other reasons it is sometimes a simplified, diluted, or just plain mistaken version of self psychology that becomes the target of outside criticisms.

In the face of these simplifications, dilutions, or critiques, we need occasionally to remind both our critics and ourselves that self psychology involves the exploration-in-depth of complex mental states. It is therefore always mistaken to equate empathic immersion with kindness or to see it as lending itself to ritualistic or automatized attitudes in the analyst. In fact, Kohut's empathic immersion had as its goal nothing less than the analyst's apprehension of both the historical and here-and-now contributions to the patient's current experience. And this included an appreciation for the interpersonal, as well as the intrapsychic, contexts in which the patient's experience was embedded.

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