Self-Psychology and Diagnostic Assessment: Identifying Selfobject Functions through Psychological Testing

Self-Psychology and Diagnostic Assessment: Identifying Selfobject Functions through Psychological Testing

Self-Psychology and Diagnostic Assessment: Identifying Selfobject Functions through Psychological Testing

Self-Psychology and Diagnostic Assessment: Identifying Selfobject Functions through Psychological Testing

Synopsis

The self psychology of Heinz Kohut has been an important force in contemporary psychoanalytic thought and its ramifications for therapy have been extensively explored. Now, Marshall Silverstein offers the first analysis of the application of self psychology to projective diagnostic assessment. Differentiating the self psychological approach from an ego psychological interpretation of classical drive theory, he clearly outlines the principal contributions of Kohut, including the concepts of selfobject functions, empathy, transmuting internalization, and compensatory structure. Providing numerous clinical examples, he shows how the major selfobject functions of mirroring, idealization, and twinship can be identified on projective tests. Silverstein then demonstrates how conventional assessment approaches to grandiosity, self-esteem, and idealization can be reconceptualized within the framework of self psychology, and he also contrasts ego psychological interpretations with self psychological interpretations.

This book makes a strong case for the importance of the clinical identification of self states. It will help practitioners understand their patients' varied attempts to repair an injury to the self to restore self-esteem (compensatory structure) and the clinical consequences of self-disorders, including disintegration products such as narcissistic rage and affect states characterized by empty depression, chronic boredom, and lack of zest.

Excerpt

A patient delivered projective test responses that included a Rorschach percept of a well-made but faded shirt, a Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) story about a depressed woman tied to her parents and unable to strike out on her own, and a drawing of a person described as hunched over or defeated. These responses suggested depression. Inquiry revealed that the patient elaborated these responses by commenting that the shirt was thrown away and that because the depressed woman could not make her mother understand her dilemma, she gave up her aspirations and was too beaten down to leave her parents. The patient also stated that because the hunched- over figure was laughed at, the person hid in shame. Statements about depression or even low self-esteem might be applied to this patient. But such descriptions fail to go far enough. The responses richly depicted a diminished and devitalized self. The patient felt depleted and unable to turn to the world with confidence or pride. Such a person cannot expect others to understand in sufficient depth these feelings of being underpowered or to respond with some recognition that the person needs to be made to feel intrinsically worthwhile.

Another patient produced Rorschach responses of "a high priestess delivering a blessing to her subjects," "the gods discussing humanity among themselves," and "a warrior from heaven dressed in full regalia." On the TAT, this patient described "a surreal representation of Noah's ark and how he saved the animals from destruction." These responses seemed to convey vigor through an emphasis on exalted states, vitality, and power until the patient elaborated these images on inquiry by commenting that the warrior was defective, the ark might be destroyed in a storm, and the gods discussing humanity were impotent.

These two patterns represent self states of devitalization and their resulting self disorders, to use Heinz Kohut's term to describe such conditions. The first patient seemed unable to summon resources to effect a repair of the self disorder and was prone to give up and wither. The second patient . . .

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