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What is Self Psychology?

Self Psychology is a form of psychodynamic psychotherapy that posits that an individual’s self-cohesion, self-esteem, and vitality derive from and are maintained by the attuned responsiveness of others to his/her needs.  Based on a modern psychoanalytic theory conceived by Heinz Kohut in Chicago in the 1960’s through 1980’s, it continues to grow and develop nurtured by the vibrant input from theorists and practitioners working around the world.

In self psychology, the therapist makes the effort to understand the client from within the client’s own subjective experience and viewpoint.  The self forms the central focus of this theory, and is understood as the vital, cohesive, feeling of ongoingness, agency, and self-worth.  Through appropriate and attuned responsiveness, the therapist promotes the growth of critical aspects of the self. These aspects support the client’s ambitions and ideas, give expression to their talents and skills, and aid healthy relationships to be sustained.

Self psychology is a developmental psychology which derives much of its understanding of the developing psyche from contemporary infant research and neuroscience. In self psychology presenting issues or symptoms are understood to represent the effects of lifespan experiences which either fostered or hindered with the achievement of healthy growth and psychological development and the maintenance of self-cohesion.  Self psychology is a relational psychology in that it maintains that human psychological functioning is always embedded in social interactions.

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