The Enduring Presence of Heinz Kohut: Empathy and Its Vicissitudes

ArticleinJournal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 59(2):289-312 · April 2011with18 Reads
Impact Factor: 0.79 · DOI: 10.1177/0003065111406269 · Source: PubMed


    This paper expands upon and further develops the centrality of empathy in psychoanalysis as offered by Heinz Kohut. Using clinical examples, it differentiates sustained empathy as the distinctive component of psychoanalysis, and it demonstrates some of the difficulties in determining the boundaries of empathy in the practice of psychoanalysis. A further distinction is from mind reading, a purely cognitive exercise, as is intuition (Carruthers 2009). To pursue a psychoanalytic perception of empathy one must confront its limitations and go beyond the somewhat simplistic claim of its unquestioned therapeutic effect. Empathy is more than a cognitive act, and as sustained over time it can be difficult to achieve, can be misunderstood, and can at times have no therapeutic effect.