Theories of Counseling-Self Psychology

From Infrapsych



"Self-psychology is a theory developed by an American psychiatrist, Dr Heinz Kohut, in the 1970s and 80s. It attempts to explain the development of mental health problems by identifying difficulties experienced during childhood when children are thought to be particularly sensitive to interactions with others, especially their parents.

The theory is that children require certain confirming or approving responses from their parents (which are usually automatic) in order to develop emotionally and psychologically. Healthy development allows a person to maintain good self-esteem and control anxiety by using learned techniques."

This sounds a great deal like what we call attachment theory today.

Allan Schore's work in this regard is tremendously illuminating.

Schore talks about the attachment process as a social interaction, like a Self-Psychologist's empathic response.

Schore speaks to the need for mom in the first two years to attune herself with the child's emotional signals, both the high and low arousal varieties, and parents and child may occasionally misinterpret the signals, and as mom and child attune, the child's brain can actually grow in a healthy direction.

Again according to Schore, Dads empathic attunements come online after the second year which begins the process of teaching about aggression, how to get aroused and then relax without harming anyone in the gear shifting rough housing on the living room floor.

Brain development is dependent on the success of the attachment process, and missed or incomplete stages can lead to emotional regulation issues later on.

Schore goes on to note that attachment behaviors can happen as often as 20 times per minute.

In other words, they are brief and frequent, and the child may indicate that they are "full" by shifting attention away, or looking away.

In an adult,..."These techniques act automatically to keep a person feeling calm and 'in control' emotionally. If children are raised in an emotional environment in which they do not receive these parental responses, or the responses are inadequate, then they may go through life continually looking for them. This may leave them overly dependent on others for the provision of those emotional responses they need in order to maintain a sense of emotional well-being because they lack the ability to do it for themselves."

"Self-psychology does not refer to a person analyzing him or herself!" But it does refer to an individual seeking a sense of self internally.

How does self-psychology treatment work?

"Treatment within a self-psychology framework involves the therapist attempting to understand the possible problems which a person may have had, related to his/her emotional development in childhood that may have led to the development of mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or relationship problems."

(Sound like John Bradshaw's 'Inner Child' work?)

"Therapy using self-psychology requires the therapist to interact emotionally with a patient, almost in the manner of a parent with a child. This is not to say that the therapist treats the patient like a child. Rather, the therapist is aware of, and particularly sensitive to, the emotional needs of the patient."

"To achieve this requires the therapist to recognise a patient's need for particular types of emotional responses, such as reflecting pride in something done well, that were lacking in the patient's early emotional life. The therapist then provides that emotional response in an appropriate way."

"The aim of such therapy is to create an emotional environment in which it is possible for the patient to develop 'intrapsychic' structures (i.e. ones that are inside his/her internal emotional world) to control self-esteem and provide emotional calm."



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