Psychoanalytic Self-Psychology Theory Essay by immortal

Psychoanalytic Self-Psychology Theory
This essay explores the history of and main principles of Heinz Kohut's psychoanalytic self-psychology theory.
# 154119 | 2,408 words | 16 sources | 2010 | AU
Published on Feb 08, 2015 in Psychology (Theory)

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This essay explores the basic theories of self-psychology, including self-object experiences and empathy and empathic responsiveness. The essay outlines why self-psychology was an important theoretical development in the psychoanalytic community, and how it remains relevant today specifically in relation to trauma theory and practice.

From the Paper:

"Self psychology proposes a view of human development that states individuals retain narcissistic needs throughout their life and cannot therefore ever achieve full independence from one another (Lee and Martin, 1991). This is in contrast to a traditional psychodynamic model of development which proposes adults need to rid themselves of immature, narcissistic needs and move to a more mature form of object-relatedness (Kahn, 1997). In this traditional model, mature adults are both other-focused and fully independent, not relying on others to maintain psychological and emotional functioning (Kahn, 1997). Self psychology instead clearly articulates that narcissistic needs are healthy, and that not only is the maturation of the self dependent on having these needs met as an infant and child, but that the continued maintenance of the self as an adult is dependent on the ongoing fulfilment of these narcissistic needs (Lee and Martin, 1991).
"Self psychology's understanding of developmental theory directly informs its understanding of the nature and aetiology of psychopathology. Self psychology hypothesises that emotional and psychological difficulties arise for individuals when their narcissistic developmental needs have not been met (Lee and Martin, 1991). Self psychology has named these needs 'self object experiences' and believe there are three self object experiences that are required by the developing infant and child for healthy maturation to occur (Lee and Martin, 1991). These are the need to be mirrored, the need to idealise, and the need for twinship (Lee and Martin, 1991). If a caregiver can adequately provide these needs to a child enough of the time, then the child will slowly begin to internalise the psychological and emotional function and structure that the self object experiences previously provided (Lee and Martin, 1991). This will result in an individual with a strong, cohesive self structure - including such elements as a balanced self-esteem, an internal locus of control, a sense of vitality, and the capacity to self-soothe (Kahn, 1997) - and thus healthy psychological and emotional functioning (Lee and Martin, 1991). This self psychologically oriented view of psychopathology is very different to traditional psychodynamic views of psychopathology which blame internal, psychic conflict between sexual drives and cultural mores (Lee and Martin, 1991; Mitchell and Black, 1995). Instead, self psychology takes a more relational approach, seeing difficulties in establishing or maintaining healthy emotional and psychological functioning as the result of a lack of self object experiences in early caregiving relationships and/ or current relationships (Lee and Martin, 1991)."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Lee, R.R. and Martin, J.C. 1991. Psychotherapy after Kohut: A textbook of self psychology. Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press.
  • Lichtenberg, J. D. 1997. ``What is self psychology?'' [Online.] [Accessed 16th January, 2010.] Available from World Wide Web: HYPERLINK ""
  • Mitchell, S.A. and Black, M.J. 1995. Freud and beyond: A history of modern psychoanalytic thought. New York: Basic Books.
  • Sapolsky, R.M. 2004. Why zebras don't get ulcers: the acclaimed guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping. Third Edition. New York: Holt Paperbacks.
  • Siegel, D. 1999. The Developing Mind. New York and London: Guilford Press.

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