Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Therapist's Use of the Self

On April 17, 2010 I attended the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society’s “Day with Lauren Levine, PhD.” Dr. Levine, both a delightful person and a sensitive and talented clinician, eloquently managed to convey, both implicitly and explicitly, her relational approach to psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Weaving throughout her clinical paper the story of her patient and herself with the ideas of her teachers and mentors at the NYU Post Doc she elucidated the use of the analyst’s self to facilitate transformation in the patient. Noting from Adrienne Harris that ‘the analyst’s wounds that must serve as tools,’ Dr.Levine said, “Our own relational stories at times facilitate, and at times hinder, our capacity to engage deeply in the analytic process.”

In her paper, Dr. Levine explores the ways in which, as analysts, "transformative aspects of our personal analyses reside, often unconsciously, or preconsciously in the analyst, creating unexpected opportunities in our work with patients." She describes how a profound piece of work in her own analysis around efforts to connect with her young son "resonated in her work with a patient, enlivening and deepening the treatment." "In the process, her patient discovered new places within herself which enabled her to reach out to her teenage son in new and reparative ways."

From Dr. Levine's relational perspective, it is critical for the analyst to have the capacity, and the courage to go to those darker places within herself, and draw from that emotional reservoir in deconstructing enactments, so that the analysis is "safe, but not too safe" (Bromberg) for analyst as well as patient.

Dr. Levine used the experiences in her own analysis and with her son to open up the analytic space with her patient, seeking, as Stephanie Solow Glennon proposed, ‘to foster authenticity, aliveness, and creativity.’ Recognizing the wisdom of Emanuel Ghent’s words that each of us has ‘a deep yearning to be found and recognized,’ Dr. Levine strives to create the safety, as suggested by Adrienne Harris, necessary ‘to open access to unbearable affects.’ She strives to help her patients “begin to feel less ashamed and humiliated of those split-off, unacceptable parts of oneself.”

Darlene Ehrenberg described the ‘intimate edge’ as 'not simply at the boundary between self and other; it is also at the boundary of self-awareness…. It is a point of expanding self-discovery, at which one can become more intimate with one’s own experience through the evolving relationship with the other, and then more intimate with the other as one becomes more attuned to oneself. '

For the complete and eloquent illustration of the use of the self by Lauren Levine, see her paper "Transformative Aspects of Our Own Analyses and Their Resonance in Our Work With Our Patients” in Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 19:454–462, 2009.

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