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What is Self Psychology?

Psychoanalytic self psychology is the theoretical school of Heinz Kohut, MD (1913-1981), and provides the theoretical basis for most of the therapeutic benefits of contemporary psychoanalysis.  While rejecting the primary importance of innate Freudian sexual drives in the organization of the human psyche, self psychology was the first major psychoanalytic movement in the United States to recognize the critical role of empathy in explaining human development and psychoanalytic changeSince 1959 Kohut and followers have transformed the practice of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy by deepening the therapist's empathic attunement to the patient and describing fundamental human needs for healthy development, particularly idealizing, mirroring, and twinship (or "alterego") needs.  Kohut's work has developed into the study of selfobject experiences, experiences (usually with other people) that nourish the self and which define the experience of the self and self-esteem.  Healthy narcissism is the appearance of a strong, vital, cohesive self striving with ambition and ideals toward the full realization of a person's skills and talents.  Narcissism is the appearance of a weak, vulnerable self attempting to maintain self-cohesion and bolster self-esteem.  Freud's method of free association within the empathic ambience of the consulting room can eventually develop into the analyses of selfobject transferences.  Disruptions in this ambience are analyzed as empathic failures of the analyst and must result in a restoration of the empathic ambience in order for the analysis to proceed.  Repetitions of this disruption-restoration process allow a person's sense of self to change and develop in fundamental ways and define the psychoanalytic process.  Intersubjective systems theory is a major contemporary school growing from self psychology.  It is a two-person theory of psychology consistent with modern systems theory and self psychology.  Psychoanalytic self psychology contributes to our understanding of a wide variety of topics in psychology and the social sciences, as well as philosophy, humanities and religion.

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