Heinz Kohut's Theories and Practice

Heinz Kohut: The Man and His Work

Although much less well known as his modern Sigmund Freud, Heinz Kohut is similarly famous among his peers for his exploration of narcissism and the client's need for empathy and understanding from his or her therapist. The aim of this paper is to spell it out the theory and practice of Heinz Kohut and his impact over the author's practice, both explaining the mental health mechanisms that drove Kohut to the line of considering along with brief vignettes of the author's own psychobiography that led her to include some of his theory into her work with clients.

Usually, far more is known in regards to a psychoanalyst's work than about his life or persona. Scholars have found it useful to examine the life of your theorist to get information into how he may have come to the conclusions he had, especially as there happens to be no grand unified theory of therapy. In another of Kohut's biographies, Siegel (1996) detailed him as a walking contradiction that has greater than a healthy dosage of self-love.

"Kohut seemed a strange combination of aloof, aristocratic and almost puritanical austerity in a warmly reactive and considerate person. He was a very private person and was careful how he let himself come in open public. I never found him sloppily outfitted and I understand that he corrected and edited his writings again and again before he was satisfied to release them for publication. He was properly discreet about his health and few of his friends understood that over the last 10 years of his life he was experiencing a chronic leukaemia in remission. A long time before the contemporary acceptance of exercise and jogging, Kohut ran, not jogged, his prescribed miles several times weekly. He ate sparingly to maintain a trim shape. "

Another biographer identified him as someone with a deep zest forever that often 'enraged people or harm them badly with his strong narcissism (Strozier 2004, p. 12). Perhaps he noticed these attributes quite firmly in himself which is why he became fixated on setting up a theory of development with narcissism at the key. Being a perfectionist, he carefully manipulated how others would understand himself as Siegel mentioned above. This fastidiousness may have stemmed from his personal background. As the kid of two German Jews living under the sword of Damocles that was Adolf Hitler, and the German Imperium of the early twentieth century, the family needed to assimilate as best as they possibly could into the society. Europe acquired long been hostile toward the Jewish Diaspora and conformity was a matter of life and death. Thus, there's a need to build up two selves: the public self and the private home. According to Strozier's biography, in addition to his legal name, he also possessed another name to be utilized within the confines of his religious community (2004).

His further study of the introduction of narcissism originated in the low cost rejection of the academic community when he searched for to commence his didactic research, to be able to eventually turn into a psychoanalyst. The committee cited his narcissism as a pub to entry but his biographer mentioned that there have been several narcissistic psychoanalysts in the 1940's and suggested that his rejection might have been associated with his rather unorthodox intimate tactics (Strozier 2004).

In enough time that he flourished, he and some of his contemporaries put a strong emphasis on the value of the therapist's romantic relationship with the client. First is the premise of non-defensiveness. The adoption of any open posture allows the clients to open up and speak freely without fear of being declined or humiliated, even if your client should point out reservations about the therapist herself (Kahn 1997). Although this is extremely difficult to accomplish in practice because therapists, like the overall population, have 'sore locations' and strong value systems that they often defend quite vigorously. However, once the therapist learns non-defensiveness, your client would feel comfortable talking about any issue because she feels that her therapist would unconditionally support her. In early on psychoanalysis, taking such a humanistic stance was seen as a strong move as psychoanalysts were careful to cultivate a detached, observational role-ensuring a notable mental distance between therapist and patient. Especially obvious, was the idea of authority-that because the therapist was the expert, his interpretation (because so many psychoanalysts at the time were male) was definitely correct in the mind of the patient. Kohut fell into the snare himself until he finally quit and listened to a particularly difficult consumer. In his records, he creates

I was inclined to claim with the individual about the correctness of my interpretations and to suspect the presence of stubborn concealed resistances. . . For a long time I insisted. . . that the patient's reproaches related to specific transference fantasies and hopes on the Oedipal level. . . She became [even more] violently irritated, and furiously accused me of undermining her. . . and. . . wrecking her evaluation (Kohut qt. Kahn 1997, p. 89).

As it turned out, those so-called resistances were his client's tries to communicate the reality of her youth and being constantly misunderstood and overlooked. This breakthrough could not have come until Kohut ended offering interpretations and began to truly hear where she was via. While this is one of is own more important breakthroughs in the practice of modern therapy, his theory of on the development of the self experienced drawn many admirers and critics, as he views the development of narcissism with the expansion of the self as one-and-the-same. However, a healthy sense of self-love is essential to flourish, many psychologists and lay-people view narcissism as a pathological elevation of the personal at the trouble of others at worst, or at best a defence-mechanism against low-self esteem.

On Self-Psychology

According to Kohut, the grandiose home is the 'child's second attempt to restore the lost blissful point out by creating a feeling of excellence within the self applied. In this work, all imperfection is designated to the earth outside' (Siegel 1996, p. 86). For the child's psyche, this is a success mechanism as acknowledging imperfection or imperfections within the self causes tremendous amount of psychic pain. This was especially true for one of my clients. Over time, we learned that she could only feel worth admiration by projecting this 'grandiose self'-image' of success and invincibility-not because she necessarily believes she actually is superior to others, but because she worries rejection by her peers and contempt from her subordinates should people discover who she actually was. Regarding to Kohut, clinging to the grandiose personal usually happens if the child's main caretaker is not very empathic or the child has been uncovered trauma at the moment (Siegel 2006). Section of her therapy includes exploring who this personal is. Because she possessed constructed several layers of false personal information, she does not know who she is, as her self-concept was buried in pity, humiliation, and overlook. A lot of the patients in the author's work have exhibited symptoms of an 'hurt grandiose home', which necessitated a heavy focus on empathy and a mirror-transference over the course of treatment.

Applying the idea: A Case Study

For the sake of privateness, no one's name would be released, so this paper will refer to the author's customer as Nadia. She had been in therapy for several weeks because she possessed experienced some unfortunate events, which made her reflect further after her life. Her associations have unhealthy patterns where a suitor would appear to put her on a pedestal through the courtship stage and when things became resolved, she'd break off the relationship in search of another man that would make her feel as special. She has lapsed into a deep depressive disorder because her life got taken a course apart from what she got envisioned her 'future' would entail with respect to her profession and acquiring certain status icons (i. e. house and nice car). She withdrew from relatives and buddies unable to face the humiliation that comes with life's setbacks, partly because she would always speak of how wonderful her life was. Getting together with her own anticipations and those of her family acquired become a compulsion as it served to validate her presence and her superiority over others that were somewhat less driven.

The author's role in the discussion is small, but significant. With patients such as Nadia, it is just necessary to pay attention and set up a sense of twinship-that is, cultivate the sensation that she and I are extremely similar, having very similar objectives of life. Initially, those seeking remedy are trying to find someone to validate them and human being characteristics being what it is, they'll not feel known by someone that seems greatly different confiding in the ones that are possib themselves, but this trend is even more pronounced in the narcissist. Your client must believe that it is all right to share her emotions; because she is certain that they would be realized unconditionally. Regarding to Kohut, in the reflection/alter-ego transference: "The patient experience you as like himself; his thoughts seem to be present in additionally you, and what's going on in him he feels is going on in you too. When he feels distant, you are faraway from him too. When he is enraged, he seems you are enraged too" (Kohut, Tolpin & Topin, 1996, p. 34). Intriguingly enough, narcissism often provides the patient an unequalled degree of connectedness as she views the other as an extension of herself and enjoys her because she adores herself. Conversely, she may hate her therapist because she may represent back areas of herself that she does not like. Sometimes, when your client no more views the therapist as a mirror-object, but another person, the therapy trainings would end because she'd no more take any narcissistic pleasure in understanding herself, however that parting may signal the start of deeper changes to come. Corresponding to Kohut, once the client becomes subconsciously aware that the therapist and customer are two different entities, she proceeds to narcissistic projection-where she tasks aspects of herself unto the therapist (Kohut, Tolpin & Tolpin 1996). The therapist then must sort out the reasons why her customer is mailing forth those particular feelings and then encourage her to represent upon her emotions and the events of days gone by that brought them out and induced the client to project those thoughts onto her, whether those feelings are positive or negative.


To a little extent, the therapist must attempt to keep this desire for play so long as easy for significant change that occurs. That does not necessarily mean a client will be cured-in simple fact, a cure may not be desired because narcissism is often necessary for life in the competitive, individualistic ethnicities of Western nations. This isn't a unusual practice for psychotherapists to regulate how they are recognized by their clients, as it is often necessary to project an image of competence as well as physical and mental health in order to increase credibility with them. However, you have the threat of seeming intimidating and unapproachable because clients usually cannot relate to someone that seems properly conscientious and undisturbed by the globe at all times. They desire a mirror to reflect and validate a far more empowered version of these self-images. That's where empathy becomes all the more significant used. The therapist must always maintain her image as a reliable professional, but she can convey that she actually is capable of putting herself into another's situation and then helping her clients from a posture of strength.


Greenberg, J. R. & Mitchell, S. A. (1983), Object Relationships in Psychoanalytic Theory, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University or college Press

Kahn, M. (1997), Between Therapist and Client: THE BRAND NEW Relationship. New York, NY: Henry Holt & Company, LLC

Kohut, H. , Tolpin, P. , & Tolpin, M. (1996), Heinz Kohut: The Chicago Institute Lectures, Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press

Siegel, A. M. (1996), Heinz Kohut and the Psychology of the Self applied, London: Routledge

Strozier, C. B. (2004), Heinz Kohut: The Making of an Psychoanalyst, Chicago, IL: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC

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