• Natalie Johannsen
  • Pernille Skovlund Nissen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
One of the most pivotal and yet most complex questions concerning psychotherapy has to do with what actually enables change within the patient. In recent years, research into this field points to certain factors which are essential across a variety of therapeutic interventions. Particularly prominent is the finding that the relationship between client and therapist, more than any specific intervention method, plays a crucial part in the results of therapy and how the client reacts to treatment. Instead of investigating, defining and categorizing the nonspecific factors which might contribute to change and development within the client, as has been done by much previous research, the focus of the current thesis will rather be placed on the process of therapy and on how the therapist’s contribution and relating factors work in therapy. Since it seems to be an overlooked subject, we find it especially interesting to explore how the therapist’s utilization of him-/herself can create change within the client and which challenges might be associated with this use of self. We have gone about this by presenting a theoretical framework and conducting a qualitative study of two experienced therapists who position themselves respectively in the psychoanalytical and the mentalization based (MBT) field of therapy.

Through the process of the current thesis, we found that the therapist’s use of self can be divided into 1) inner processes including phenomena such as countertransference, empathy, mentalization and self reflection, which can enable an understanding of the client and thus facilitate the choice of a suitable intervention, and 2) self disclosure which, unlike the above mentioned processes, is a more open way of utilizing oneself in therapy, and can thus be characterized as a more straight forward change enabling mechanism. However, it also became clear that there are a lot of different ways of understanding the individual phenomena, which influence how they are utilized or even avoided. This was particularly palpable in the comparison of the psychoanalytical therapy approach and MBT, despite the fact that both approaches originate from much of the same theory.

In the light of the above mentioned, it is argued that the differences in the use of self are related to the different understandings of psychopathology, processes of change and aim of therapy respectively, which overall has to do with diverging fundamental views of human beings. At the same time, however, it is concluded that the span of both approached makes an in-depth explanation and differentiation difficult; MBT is built upon such an array of different approaches that it is difficult to explain the reasoning and view of human beings underlying the treatment approach, and the psychoanalytical perspective includes such a broad spectrum of opinions that it is difficult grasp the theoreticians implicit differences. Furthermore, it also became clear that, if it is needed by the client, both informants deviate from their frame of references and thereby their general understanding of their own contributions to the therapeutic relationship. It then appears that the informants are not as stringent in practice and that there are some individual factors, which influence the use of self across therapeutic approaches. Thus, despite differences and similarities between diverse approaches, the way in which the therapist uses his/her self can also be attributed to the individual therapist, client and context.
Publication date31 May 2013
Number of pages137
ID: 76956291