What is Self Psychology?
Self Psychology is a psychodynamic psychoanalytic theory that posits that an individual’s self-cohesion, self-esteem, and vitality derive from and are maintained by the attuned responsiveness of others. This modern psychoanalytic theory was developed by Heinz Kohut in Chicago in the 1960’s through 1980’s, and it continues to grow through the vibrant input from theorists and practitioners working around the world.
A Self Psychologically-informed therapist works to understand the client from within the client’s own subjective vantagepoint. The Self, which forms the central focus of this theory, is understood as the relationally ever-evolving feelings of vitality, cohesiveness, ongoingness, agency, and self-worth. Through appropriate and attuned responsiveness, the psychotherapist promotes the growth and consolidation of critical aspects of the Self. These aspects support the client’s ambitions and ideas, give expression to their talents and skills, and aid healthy relationships to be sustained.
Self Psychology is an affective, developmental and relational framework. As an affective theory, it places feelings (nonverbal and verbal) at the core of the Self and Self-motivations. As a developmental psychology Self Psychology derives much of its understanding of the developing psyche from contemporary infant research and neuroscience. In Self Psychology presenting issues or symptoms are understood to represent the effects of lifespan experiences which either fostered or hindered with the achievement of healthy growth and psychological development and the maintenance of self-cohesion. Self Psychology is a relational psychology in that it maintains that human psychological functioning is always embedded in social interactions.