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Sapountzis, I. (2009). Revisiting Searles's Paper “The Patient as a Therapist to the Therapist”: The Analyst's Personal in the Interpersonal. Psychoanal. Rev., 96(4):665-684.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Review, 96(4):665-684

Revisiting Searles's Paper “The Patient as a Therapist to the Therapist”: The Analyst's Personal in the Interpersonal

Ionas Sapountzis, Ph.D.

In his provocative paper “The Patient as a Therapist to the Therapist,” Searles (1999) proposed that through interactions with patients, therapists often come to realize aspects of themselves they had previously been unaware of. Searles did not attribute these experiences to enactment or projective identification. Instead, he attributed them to the unconscious desire of patients to experience themselves as therapists to their own therapists. For Searles, all humans, or at least all humans who willingly embark in a psychotherapeutic journey, are likely to experience innate conscious or unconscious strivings for the practice of psychotherapy, regardless of the kind or severity of the conflicts they experience. In fact, according to Searles, “the more ill a patient is the more does his successful treatment require that he becomes and be implicitly acknowledged as having become a therapist to his officially designated therapist, the analyst” (p. 381). To this day, Searles's assumption of an innate therapeutic striving in all humans, and more specifically, his contention that all patients need to experience themselves as facilitators to their therapists, is quite radical and iconoclastic.

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