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Wallerstein, R.S. (1986). How Does Self Psychology Differ in Practice?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 67:505-506.

(1986). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 67:505-506

How Does Self Psychology Differ in Practice?

Robert S. Wallerstein, M.D.

Dear Dr Hayley:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reply to Dr Frederic Levine's letter in response to my recent article in the International Journal, 'How does self psychology differ in practice?' (Vol. 66:391–404, 1985). First, I should say that on re-reading my own paper in the light of Dr Levine's comments, I found us (Dr Levine and myself) in substantial agreement on many issues, most notably that self psychology, the work of Kohut and his followers, has made—in our view—its chief contribution to psychoanalysis in the heightened clinical focus on the specific transferences and the characteristically evoked countertransferences evident most clearly with narcissistically invested patients but also present, to varying degree, across the whole gamut of illness and character types. I perhaps think this a more significant contribution than does Dr Levine since he says towards the very end of his letter 'It [self psychology] certainly has some insights about narcissistic phenomena and transferences to contribute to mainstream psychoanalysis, but many of these have already been described by prior writers'. I, rather, feel that Kohut has brought us significantly beyond where we were before his advent in our clinical understandings in this area.

This clarification is not however the main reason why I have undertaken to reply to Dr Levine's letter. There is a larger issue at stake and one that does divide Dr Levine and myself in our assessments of Kohut and self-psychology; and I do not think any of this is a 'trivial exercise' by either Dr Levine or myself, nor do I feel his views to be 'without substance as a critique'.

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