The Psychotherapist's Own Psychotherapy: Patient and Clinician Perspectives

By Jesse D. Geller; John C. Norcross et al. | Go to book overview

10
THE I AND THE SELF:
REMINISCENCES OF
EXISTENTIAL-HUMANISTIC
PSYCHOTHERAPY

BRYAN WITTINE

In their provocative study of personality theory, the psychoanalysts Atwood and Stolorow (1993, p. 5) argue that divergent theoretical approaches to the human psyche are not “theoretical models which can be tested against one another in a meaningful way, but rather [are] competing ideological and conceptual orientations to the problem of what it means to be human.” The theories of different investigators are embedded in “irreconcilable, encapsulating structures of metapsychological suppositions,” which stem from the subjective experiential worlds of the theorists themselves. Thus, Freudian, Jungian, existential-humanistic, and cognitive theories, to name but a few, arise from the subjective and personal influences of those who invented them, for “personality theorists tend to rely on their own lives as a primary source of empirical material” (p. 6).

If the metapsychological systems of the great psychologists are grounded fundamentally in the unconscious organizing principles of the theorists, can something similar be said of therapists and the particular theoretical orientations to which they gravitate? As a therapist, might not I be attracted to certain psychological theories that resonate with my own subjective experience, approaches that express something concerning my own unconscious design for living?

For me, the answer to these questions is an emphatic yes. As I look back on my 25-year career as a psychotherapist, I recognize that I have been drawn to theoretical systems that are personally meaningful and that address in definite ways certain lacunae in my psyche. In particular, I have needed depth psychology to help me address the reality of death, the in-

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