Self Psychology

Self psychology is a contemporary form of psychoanalytic treatment that states that each individual's self-esteem and vitality derive from, and are maintained by, the empathic responsiveness of others to his or her needs. Self psychology theory proposes that healthy self-development stems from adequate responsiveness of caregivers to the child’s vital emotional needs, including:

1. Alter Ego Needs - children need to have involvement with other like beings
2. Idealising Needs - children need to feel attached to an emotionally stable caregiver who can soothe and calm them
3. Mirroring Needs - children need to feel understood, appreciated, and that their feelings mean something

If these needs are not met in childhood, and throughout the lifespan, problems will occur. Inadequate parenting can result in derailments of self development and impair an individual’s ability to form healthy relationships. Adequate parental responsiveness to the child’s affect states (moods and feelings), is particularly vital if the child is to achieve emotional health and stability.

Self psychology stresses that individuals need relationships throughout life, and the goal of therapy is to build a strong and cohesive self. Psychotherapists, trained in self psychology, value an empathic approach to understanding the emotional truth of a person’s own experience.

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