The Psychotherapy Process and Real Self Expression

In all psychotherapeutic work,

. . . the relationship between patient and therapist requires a deep commitment on the therapist’s part to understanding and resonating with the patient’s experience.  (Siegel, 1999, p.300)

To be effective and for therapeutic interventions to work, the therapist’s interventions must come from a place of authenticity and involve a prosody that is attuned to the patient’s present and past in an experientially meaningful way.  On the therapist’s part, this involves not just the capacity for empathy, but also involves the therapist’s capacity to respond to what he or she believes to be the patient’s thoughts, feelings, wishes, goals, attitudes, desires, hopes, knowledge, imagination, intentions, and plans in a more or less accurate way. 

The therapist’s “affective honesty” and “openness” in mutual interaction with his or her patients, from the standpoint of relational psychoanalysis and in our approach, are paramount.  This, however, does not mean that the psychotherapist should engage in unmodified and unmodulated “self-disclosure”.   The therapist’s awareness of the difference between curative effects of affective honesty and the harmful effects of unbridled self-disclosure is essential (Bromberg, 2006, p.129)

In the work of psychotherapy, the therapist’s ability and capacity to “read” the emotional and intentional states of the patient, while understanding and managing his or her own feelings, is foundational in providing safety, coherence, and predictability to the psychotherapy process. 

The psychotherapist’s authenticity (aliveness, genuine curiosity, spontaneity, honesty, and abiding respect for the patient’s experience of safety) is essential in evoking the authenticity and real-self functions of the patient.

Bromberg, Phillip (2006).  Awakening the dreamer, Clinical Journeys.  Mahwah, NJ: The Analytic Press.

Siegel, Daniel (1999).  The developing mind: Toward a neurobiology of interpersonal experience.  First Edition.  New York: Guilford Press.

© Lewis and Stokes 2019 Real Self Expression

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