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Burch, B. Jenkins, C. (1999). The Interactive Potential between Individual Therapy and Couple Therapy: An Intersubjective Paradigm. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(2):229-252.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(2):229-252

The Interactive Potential between Individual Therapy and Couple Therapy: An Intersubjective Paradigm

Beverly Burch, Ph.D. and Carol Jenkins, L.C.S.W.

Central to the Relational Approach in contemporary psychoanalysis is the premise that consciousness is an intersubjective phenomenon. “Conscious insight, intellectual or emotional, is an event in a dialogue, not an achievement of a lone and private mind contemplating itself” (Spezzano, 1996p. 615). Relational theories emphasize transactions between patient and therapist in which influence flows in both directions (cf. Aron, 1991; Spezzano, 1996); both self-knowledge and knowledge of the other evolve in an interpersonal matrix. Although this “two-person” view is primarily used to describe the therapist-patient discourse, it must necessarily be considered equally applicable to the interactions between and among psychotherapists. Theoretical and clinical consciousness also evolves intersubjectively. Clinical understanding is achieved within a “dialogical community” of other psychotherapists (Bernstein, quoted by Spezzano, 1993p. 203).

Postmodern thinking has helped us recognize the ways in which, as therapists, we are all embedded in a clinical zeitgeist. The conversations that take place in professional communities of various schools propel our therapeutic understanding forward (or keep it static). We don't just rely on theory, we borrow the consciousness of our predecessors (Modell, 1994) as well as our peers. That is, we develop shared ways of listening and understanding, as well as shared biases and assumptions. As Silverman (1994) claims, “The backdrop for the particular reading of the patient's life is a function of the analyst's submersion in her own community of scholars and analysts. This group is her interpretive community” (p. 123).


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