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Cohn, R.C. (1969). Psychoanalytic or Experiential Group Psychotherapy: A False Dichotomy. Psychoanal. Rev., 56C(3):333-345.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Review, 56C(3):333-345

Psychoanalytic or Experiential Group Psychotherapy: A False Dichotomy

Ruth C. Cohn

Often a young group therapist will speak to me of a personal dilemma engendered by having more than one supervisor. For example, one supervisor may say to him: “If you hide, how do you expect your patients to dare to become and be themselves? You have a right to your feelings as a human being; and these feelings will help your patients learn to be authentic individuals, unashamed of their thoughts and emotions.” The second supervisor might say the opposite: “You can't expect to help your patients with their problems while you are burdening them with your own; they have a right to your full attention. Check your own feelings silently and discover whether they are induced by the patient's pathology or by your own unresolved problems, and speak only when reasonably certain this is purely in the patient's interest.”

I would like to share with you my own viewpoint with regard to this controversy within our profession. This is my hypothesis: All correct therapeutic interventions initiate curative processes which affect the patient's total personality. This occurs when the intervening stimulus facilitates the patient's recognition of any significant part of important personal reality that he was previously unaware of or detached from. Such curative processes occur when the patient receives messages that help him to: 1) repair distortions in his perceptual and cognitive world, 2) add emotional content to previously deprived or depleted personality areas, 3) free physical mobility from prior rigidity.


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