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Samuels, A. (2004). Politics on the Couch? Psychotherapy and Society—Some Possibilities and Some Limitations. Psychoanal. Dial., 14(6):817-834.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 14(6):817-834

Politics on the Couch? Psychotherapy and Society—Some Possibilities and Some Limitations

Andrew Samuels, DHL

The ideas and practices of psychotherapy, together with fresh thinking from many other sources, can help to revitalize Western politics which seem broken and moribund. The author describes various professional experiences of his own at the interface of politics and psychotherapy. These include consulting with mainstream and activist politicians and groupings. He discusses how politics in the West is changing in the general direction of what he calls “transformative politics.” He also asks if psychotherapists can make a difference in the political world today, explaining that, though enthusiastic about the prospect, he is also skeptical about it because the record of psychotherapists' involvement in politics is not very good. The paper includes an experiential and personally oriented section (“The Inner Politician”) that looks at how the political self is formed in culture, family, and the inner world. The notion of differing political styles as a source of conflict is explained and explored. The author concludes with some reflections on the relations between psychotherapy, politics, and spirituality.

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