From one body to two bodies: psychoanalytic perspectives on the therapist’s body as the analytic object. A hermeneutic literature review
Crowe, P M
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Interpersonal and intersubjective ideas have expanded traditional psychoanalytic theory to consider the subjectivity of the therapist in the therapeutic encounter, including the therapist’s body. Theorists from the relational and intersubjective schools view bodies as intersubjective and embedded in relational context. In the intersubjective therapeutic relationship, the therapist’s and client’s bodies are seen to be attuned – picking up on and contributing to each other’s experience. Body development is viewed as a process of attunement and incorporation between the mother’s and infant’s bodies which is influenced by cultural patterning. These early experiences are seen to create a base structure for which future bodily experience builds on. Care and handling that is consistent and empathically attuned is seen to instill a sense of stability and vitality in the infant’s body while care that is inconsistent or lacking in empathy is seen to lead to distress and fragility in the body, and ongoing body difficulty. In view of the relational development of the body, it is proposed that the therapist’s body represents the maternal body in the transference-countertransference relationship and is evocative of primitive projections and associations. Examples of how therapists have experienced their body as meaningful to the therapeutic encounter are discussed using psychodynamic theories, including Winnicott, the relational school and the intersubjective school. It is suggested that in a culturally-aware, containing, intersubjective relationship with the therapist’s body, clients’ can incorporate new bodily experiences, develop subjectivity, and improve bodily distress. This dissertation uses a hermeneutic literature review to look at predominantly female psychoanalytic perspectives on the therapist’s body as clinically meaningful and uses the concept of the analytic object to do this. The research question asked is: What are the current perspectives in psychoanalytic psychotherapy on the therapist’s body as the analytic object and what are the ways it is worked with in practice?