Essay Sample on Self-Psychology Theory

Published: 2023-02-12
Essay Sample on Self-Psychology Theory
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Personality Christianity Personal experience
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1192 words
10 min read

The self-psychology theory was founded and fostered by Heinz Kohut. Heinz initially practiced the Freudian tradition before changing his approach towards self-psychology (Wolf, 2002). Kohut described the differences in content and outcome of classical psychoanalysis versus analysis of the self in his much-examined critical paper: "The Two Analyses of Mr. Z." (Magid & Shane, 2017). Although self-psychology evolved out of the psychoanalytic tradition, it is a significant departure from traditional drive theory and object relations theory (Wolf, 2002). Essentially, self-psychology is positive psychology rather than a negative bio-psychological view of humanity. Self-psychology is based on a philosophy of healthy, not pathological, development (Siegel, 2008). Treatment depends upon a corrective therapeutic experience that allows the healthy structure to be belatedly formed in a relationship with an empathic therapist. The theory of self-psychology has dramatically expanded over the years from Kohut's original one-person psychology into a two-person intersubjective approach (Wolf, 2002). This theory can be best understood as belonging to and developing through interaction with, the broad spectrum of arguments that come under the umbrella of relationality and which are characterized by some of bi-directionality and mutual influence. This essay seeks to discuss the model of personality, mode of health and abnormality as well as the model of psychotherapy through the self-psychology theory view and compare and contrast these models with a Christian worldview.

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Model of Personality

A personality trait in an individual refers to a distinctive aspect of an individuals' cognition, affect, or behavior that tends to be stable over time and consistent across relevant situations. The model of personality assumes that the behavior of an individual is influenced by personality trait dimensions, commonly referred to as the five-factor model of a character (Siegel, 2008). These include; neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. These five dimensions efficiently capture a wide range of individual differences in personality, and consequently, the FFM is the most widely used structural model in personality measurement and research. Several personality disorders are derived from the model of personality. Kohut proposed the narcissistic personality disorder in his self-psychology theory (Magid & Shane, 2017).

According to Kohut's self-psychology model, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) results from a lack of parental empathy during development (Magid & Shane, 2017). During a child's development, failure of the parent to provide appropriate empathic feedback may result in the child not developing the ability to regulate self-esteem (Magid & Shane, 2017). A narcissistic personality disorder is one of the least diagnosed personality disorders. According to Kohut, to understand this personality disorder, therapists should assume an empathic-introspective observational stance (Magid & Shane, 2017). While growing up, therefore, an individual needs to receive appropriate parental empathy. Self-pathology develops primarily because of deficits in self-development and functioning caused by an interference with the child's ability to effectively experience or make use of compassion and care in early relational corrections.

According to a Christian world view, human beings are unique because they were created by God and also because all people have different experiences and reactions to the world. The Christian world view maintains that people are responsible for their actions, although an individual might have predispositions. The Bible commands people to act in a certain way, even in the most challenging situations. The Christian world view of personality is, therefore, similar to the biological models of personality, which argue that personal trait dimensions influence an individual's personality. Different individuals will express different personalities.

Mode of Health and Abnormality

The model of health and abnormality refers to general hypotheses as to the nature of psychological abnormalities in an individual. The four main models of abnormality include; behavioral, biological, cognitive, and psychodynamic models. According to the self-psychology theory, psychopathology is influenced by these four models of abnormality (Magid & Shane, 2017). The biological model of abnormality is based on the assumption that neuroanatomy, the brain, and related biochemicals are physical entities that mediate psychological processes. According to this model of anomaly, mental abnormalities can be treated through drugs, surgery, and electroconvulsive therapy (Siegel, 2008).

On the other hand, the behavioral model of abnormality assumes that all maladaptive behavior is acquired through one's environment (Kohut, 2009). Therefore, this abnormality can be treated through aversion therapy, whereby stimulus is used to provoke or produce a new reaction to the first stimulus based on the experiences of the second stimulus. A cognitive model of abnormality, on the other hand, focuses on the cognitive distortions in the thought process as well as the cognitive deficiencies, particularly the absence of planning and sufficient thinking. The cognitive model suggests that the treatment of abnormalities can be achieved by teaching the patient to think differently.

According to a Christian worldview, abnormality in human beings describes how we are alienated from God because of the original sin. The Christian world view of abnormality, on the other hand, involves being dependent on God but having free will to make decisions that are based on God's will. The Christian world view differs from the model of abnormality as it does not consider biological factors but instead considers spiritual factors as the causes of abnormality.

Model of Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is the practice of attempting to heal a person's emotional and mental problems, usually by conversing with another person; exploring fears, troubling thoughts, and personal history; or adjusting behavior (Siegel, 2008). The therapeutic process in self-psychology involves the salience of emphatic immersion in the subjective life of the patient. This is so as to understand the exact nature of the self-object disturbance as well as the unique organization of self-experience of the individual (Kohut, 2009). Self-object transferences in each therapeutic relationship involve the search for mirroring, idealization, or twinship sameness. The deep mobilization of the narcissistic needs in the transference relationship allows for the emphatic connectedness of the therapist during the therapy sessions as the patients remain in the extended emphatic environment. This, in turn, allows the therapists to provide needed self-object functions to the patient.

According to the Christian world view, mental disorders or unwanted human behavior is a result of sin. Therefore, the cure for sin is repentance and faith in Christ as opposed to psychotherapy as argued in the self-psychology theory.


In conclusion, self-psychology is positive psychology rather than a negative bio-psychological view of humanity. Self-psychology is based on a theory of normal, not pathological, development (Kohut, 2009). Treatment depends upon a corrective therapeutic experience that allows the healthy structure to be belatedly formed in a relationship with an empathic therapist. Empathy is a critical ingredient in the restorative therapeutic experience (Kohut, 2009). Self-righting is facilitated by the analyst's use of the empathic mode of perceptions. Psychodynamic approaches distinctly emphasize the subjective meaning of experience and the patient therapist's therapeutic relationship to transform how the world is experienced. Christian worldview differs from the self-psychology on the models of abnormality as well as psychotherapy. However, the Christian worldview on the model of personality is similar to the self-psychology theory view.


Kohut, H. (2009). The restoration of the self. University of Chicago Press.

Magid, B., & Shane, E. (2017). Relational self-psychology. Psychoanalysis, Self and Context, 12(1), 3-19. Retrieved from ' record

Siegel, A. M. (2008). Heinz Kohut and the Psychology of the Self. Routledge.

Wolf, E. S. (2002). Treating the self: Elements of clinical self-psychology. Guilford Press.

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