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Shane, M. Shane, E. (1993). Self Psychology after Kohut: One Theory or Many?. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41:777-797.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41:777-797

Self Psychology after Kohut: One Theory or Many?

Review by:
Morton Shane, M.D.

Estelle Shane, Ph.D.

HEINZ KOHUT DIED IN 1981 leaving his last book, How Does Analysis Cure?, to be published posthumously three years later. The sum total of his work included three books and a number of papers, but his influence cannot be measured by how much he wrote. By the time of his death he had developed a unique approach to the theory and technique of psychoanalysis, naming it self psychology, and had established as his central purpose to make of self psychology the superordinate framework for encompassing and understanding the entire psychoanalytic process. However, it was only gradually that Kohut arrived at this position. In 1957, in an address before the Institute for Psychoanalysis in Chicago, he (Kohut, 1959) asserted his belief that empathy and introspection defined and limited the domain of inquiry in the field, a declaration that was to have great importance to the theory he had yet to develop, but that was not understood as such at the time. The unspoken, indirect reference was to his own conviction that psychoanalysis did not have to seek for explanations of clinical phenomena in a biologically based drive psychology, but rather could base its clinical theory on the analytic situation per se. With this relatively modest beginning, Kohut (1966), (1968) went on to publish his discovery of new transference configurations, together with his delineation of how such transferences might be recognized, interpreted, and worked through analytically. He also described the countertransference responses which might be anticipated to these particular transference configurations, noting how the countertransference responses themselves might serve diagnostic functions.

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