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Self-Agency in Psychotherapy: Attachment, Autonomy, and Intimacy (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology)

Self-Agency in Psychotherapy: Attachment, Autonomy, and Intimacy (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) [Kindle Edition]

Jean Knox
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


Self-Agency in Psychotherapy is an amazing integration of developmental research and neuroscience with clinical theory and practice. Knox has written a fascinating and important book. --Beatrice Beebe, PhD, Clinical Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Columbia University

Product Description

A discussion of the self, both in and out of therapy.

For each of us, our thoughts, beliefs, desires, expectations, and fantasies constitute our own sense of a unique identity.
Here, Jungian and relational psychoanalyst Jean Knox argues that this experience of self-agency is always at the heart
of psychological growth and development, and it follows a developmental trajectory that she examines in detail, from the
realm of bodily action and reaction in the first few months of life, through the emergence of different levels of agency, to
the mature expression of agency in language and metaphor.

Knox makes the case that the achievement of a secure sense of self-agency lies at the heart of any successful psychotherapy,
and argues for an updated psychoanalytic therapy rooted in a developmental and intersubjective approach.
Drawing on a range of therapeutic disciplines—including interpersonal neurobiology, attachment theory, and developmental
research—she proposes an integrated and flexible clinical approach that is based on the actual interpersonal
agency of analyst and patient, rather than any one specific theory about the human unconscious being imposed on the
patient by the analyst’s interpretations. Detailed clinical examples explore this approach.

Part of the Norton Series on
Interpersonal Neurobiology, Self-Agency in Psychotherapy deftly balances theory and practice, offering practical applications
for groundbreaking research on self-agency.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 563 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (6 Dec 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0041OTAZM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #508,807 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource 20 Dec 2012
Excellent book that combines theory with clinical vignettes to provide an invaluable resource for clinicians wanting to update their practice in line with modern developmental research and neuroscience.

Knox advocates convincingly for the importance of self agency to the developing child and the healing patient in psychotherapy.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Self Agency and Awareness as a Path for Healing Old Unconscious Inherited Hurts 6 Mar 2013
By Markus Youssef - Published on
What would happen if more awareness of could be had on how and why intergenerational trauma takes place? For example, can you imagine what would happen to a 3-month old infant if he or she were accused of wanting to control his or her mother?

"'One mother, for example, perceived her 3-month-old baby daughter as so `cunning' that, according to the mother, the baby jumped from her crib to the adjacent parental bed to sneak a feeding at the breast while the mother was asleep and then jumped back to her crib. This was the only explanation the mother could find for her breasts feeling rather empty of milk when she woke up in the morning'. ... the mother was unable to relate to her own inner feelings of emptiness, rooted in her own childhood deprivation and to her fear of not having enough to give her daughter. Instead, she experienced her emotional emptiness in a concrete and behavioral way, as breasts empty of milk, and decided that the baby's actions must be the cause, even though such behaviour would clearly be impossible for a 3-month-old baby. Although this mother's attribution of negative intentionality to her infant has a psychotic quality, parent-infant psychotherapists do often see mothers who regularly attribute negative meaning to their infants' attempts to communicate." Pg 202

If the infant in the above example grows up to become a therapist herself, this kind of dynamic (negative attribution) between mother and infant could also later on take place between her and a client. The example given is about a client who baked a nice loaf of bread and offered it as a gift to her therapist who "simply let it drop on the floor between them, treating the gift as a manipulative seduction."

The author says that the most important characteristics of an emotionally mature adult are the ability to self reflect, to self regulate one's emotions (affect regulation) and to have a sense of self agency. She emphasizes the third one and since they are all interconnected, development in one leads to development in the others. If these three aren't developed sufficiently then addictive behaviour may develop as an attempt to meet long lost unmet needs, in particular, the need for symbiosis with mother. The person may also, for a period of time, be unaware of what their metaphors mean. For example:

"A supervisee had been seeing a female patient who presented with a ... belief that she had a ... demon inside her, ... The patient was contemptuous of any of her friends, family, or doctors who did not believe [her]. She could not think about [it] in psychological terms, as a symbolic expression of some aspect of her mental state, her belief that her thoughts were ... destructive, but was convinced that demon really existed. She believed that she could therefore never have children herself, that the demon inside her meant that she would not even be able to give birth to a healthy child or to be a good enough mother if she did ... the patient felt that her mother had always been strongly ambivalent toward her and might not even have wanted her to be born....The patient could make sense of her experience of a demon inside her by seeing it as an image of her mother's unconscious hostility toward her and her implicit awareness of that hostility. Following these sessions, the patient tried to talk to her mother about her past. Her mother ... did describe her own mother's indifference toward her, including one occasion when she was sent to school while suffering from acute appendicitis, which resulted in a ruptured appendix and emergency surgery. The patient could see that her mother had also been the object of [hostility] from the patient's grandmother, and this again helped to lessen her delusional beliefs by recognizing them as a reflection of parental anxiety, abuse, and neglect handed on from one generation to another." Pg 172

The first half of the book describes the biological/brain aspects of how self agency develops and in the second how it gets expressed in its various forms which this brief review is in reference to. "Consciousness is curative." A clearly written book which focuses on the concept of self-agency as a key trait of the true self as a path for awareness and inner repair, healing and creativity.
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