Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: A Practitioner's Guide

By Nancy McWilliams | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
Self-Care

A certain kind of therapist may almost disappear as a
definable individual, in rather the way that some self-
sacrificing Christian ladies become nonentities; people
who are simply there for others, rather than existing in
their own right. When psychotherapy is practised every
day and all day, there is a danger of the therapist
becoming a non-person; a prostitute parent whose
children are not only all illegitimate, but more imaginary
than real.…It is essential for the therapist to find some
area in which he lives for himself alone, in which self-
expression, rather than self-abnegation, is demanded.

—ANTHONY STORR (1990, p. 186)

I have included this chapter on the care of the therapist in response to statements I have heard from beginning therapists to the effect that they wish someone had told them these things before they had to find them out the hard way. Many of the points I make, especially in the earlier part of the chapter, involve commonsensical, thingsyour-mother-told-you observations such as the importance of getting enough sleep, but I have gone beyond mother in trying to spell out the ways in which specific deficits in care of the self can have problematic implications for one's work. I also take seriously the fact that therapists suffer indirect traumatization when working with clients who have traumatic backgrounds. We have learned to emphasize self-care issues with our traumatized patients, but we have tended to be considerably less conscientious about care of ourselves.

Psychotherapists are highly motivated to take care of other people. They are notoriously less keenly devoted to taking care of themselves. If our personal inclinations to care for others at our own expense—that is, our masochistic tendencies—were already not enough of a problem, many of us have undergone training in which we got relentless mes-

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Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: A Practitioner's Guide
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • About the Author vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • Contents xxiii
  • Chapter 1 - What Defines a Psychoanalytic Therapy? 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Psychoanalytic Sensibility 27
  • Chapter 3 - The Therapist's Preparation 46
  • Chapter 4 - Preparing the Client 73
  • Chapter 5 - Boundaries I: the Frame 99
  • Chapter 6 - Basic Therapy Processes 132
  • Chapter 7 - Boundaries Ii: Quandaries 163
  • Chapter 8 - Molly 197
  • Chapter 9 - Donna1 219
  • Chapter 10 - Ancillary Lessons of Psychoanalytic Therapy 241
  • Chapter 11 - Occupational Hazards and Gratifications 260
  • Chapter 12 - Self-Care 285
  • Annotated Bibliography 305
  • References 311
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