Tuesday, May 25, 1999, 8:00 PM

The Impact of Psychoanalytic Theory and a Two-Person Psychology on the Empathizing Analyst

Speaker: Marvin Wasserman
Discussant: Robert D. Stolorow
Bulletin Reviewer: T.B.A.

Traditionally "empathy" has been viewed from the perspective of a one-person psychology and "the facts" discovered via empathic understanding have been thought to accurately reflect what the patient was experiencing, ideally uncontaminated by anything coming from the analyst. In contrast to this position, the author argues for the view that the analyst always actively influences what he discovers empathically. Specifically, the analyst’s theoretical biases always shape what he empathically understands. The contributions of Owen Renik and, to a lesser extent, Irwin Hoffman are critically examined focusing on how their two-person perspectives shape the analyst’s ability to empathize. Their clinical stances which emphasize the role of corrective emotional experiences and countertransference enactments are compared to what the author calls an "integrated stance" which attempts to integrate elements of one- and two-person psychologies while retaining interpretation as primary in bringing about change. It is concluded that the techniques advocated by Renik and Hoffman potentially restrict empathic understanding in two ways. First, they take positions that limit the development of regressive transference reactions. Second, because they deemphasize monitoring countertransference urges, they actively facilitate more frequent countertransference enactments which then may not be interpreted as fully as by the analyst working from an "integrated stance" . Clinical examples are used to illustrate differences between these two stances.