Heinz Kohut on Empathy in Psychotherapy
by Heinz Kohut
This rare 1981 video of Heinz Kohut's presentation, given just days before his death, features his powerful reflections on empathy.
Heinz Kohut believed that when used for compassionate and well-intentioned therapeutic purposes, empathy deepens client introspection and enhances treatment outcome. However, he defended himself against critics whom he thought misinterpreted his work to mean that empathy and kindness were alone sufficient clinical ingredients for effective treatment.

Clinicians working with depressed, vulnerable and psychologically damaged clients may also believe that it is their primary responsibility to provide the corrective, empathic milieu absent in childhood. Instead, and by listening to Heinz Kohut, you will gain clarity as to the exact nature and role of empathy in psychotherapy and appreciate the deeply empathic nature of introspection and interpretation. Whether or not you adapt a psychoanalytic framework, Kohut’s reflections on empathy will provide a refreshing perspective on its value and limitations in the therapeutic process.   
In Depth
Empathy is a multi-layered process. Kindness and caring are important, but it is the therapist who facilitates introspection that moves the relationship to an even deeper level. However, and ultimately, it is accurate interpretation by the clinician and accompanying insight on the part of the patient that reflects the deepest form of empathic connection. For Kohut, truly knowing someone and providing them the opportunity to know themselves is the foundation of insight, behavior change and self-integration. Clinicians watching Kohut’s parting gift, so to speak, will take away a greater sense of appreciation of the limits and potential of therapeutic empathy.

Length of video: 0:41:28

English subtitles available

Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-582-3

Group ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-582-3

Heinz Kohut, MD, was an American psychoanalyst who departed from the traditional Freudian psychoanalytic focus on internal drives in favor of an emphasis on relationship. Teaching and studying at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and his leadership in the neo-analytic movement in the U.S. and abroad, along with his 1971 “The Analysis of the Self” and subsequent writings, established him as the founder of the applied discipline of Self Psychology and the therapeutic modality of Object Relations Therapy. His lasting impact is reflected in the study of empathy, personality disorder and the influence of early relationships on the development of self and interpersonal ties.
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