Heinz Kohut expanded the field of self psychology, a concept first introduced by Mary Whiton Calkins in 1900. Kohut identified empathy as the primary tool for examining and understanding human development and psychoanalytic transformation. Kohut’s views varied greatly from Freud’s, as he did not believe that the human psyche was reactive primarily to sexual triggers. Psychotherapy and psychoanalysis have been dramatically changed by this movement and have woven empathy and fundamental human fulfillment together to create an effective outcome for the client. This technique strives to encompass all of the basic needs for healthy human development, and in particular the needs of the alter-ego.
Self psychology strives to instill in the therapist a profound insight into the basic needs of the client. The relationship is one of empathy and strategies used in this form of therapy address the need of twinship, mirroring, and idealizing. This method developed out of the study of experiences with other people, and that these experience form the identity, self-esteem, and self awareness of the person involved in the experience. Self psychology identifies healthy narcissism as a positive quality. It is seen as the evidence of a formidable ambition with a vital determination for the attainment of goals. Whereas narcissism is recognized as a negative trait and is described as a weakness or a vulnerability.
By examining both of these attributes, as well as the many other facets of the conscious and unconscious being, a therapist can work with a client to determine which areas of needs are being unmet. The atmosphere of empathy allows a client to freely explore his inner self and gain insight into the voids in his persona. The emptiness felt by the unrealized needs leads to negative emotional responses and can often manifest as physical illness. The client and the therapist work together to design a plan to address these needs and determine the most proactive way to achieve them considering all situations surrounding the clients present circumstances.
Last updated: 05-02-2014