Elective: Self-Disclosure in Relational Psychoanalysis

Adult Psychoanalytic Training (APT)
2021-22, 2nd Trimester — Fridays, 3:30-5:00pm
John Cardinali, PsyD


This four-week course is designed to give participants an overview of a relational approach to self-disclosure. We will review the overarching goals of relational psychoanalysis, how these aims may be facilitated by different types of self-disclosure and consider critiques of this approach. We will rely heavily on our clinical experiences to bring to life the material that we are studying. The class sections will be structured such that the first half of each class will be a review and discussion of concepts covered in the readings. In the second half of the class, we will apply these concepts to our individual case material. Please come to each class session with your own clinical examples in mind, we will decide which case material to discuss based on which aspects of the discussion are most alive for the group

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, the clinical associates will:

  1. gain an understanding of how relational theory conceptualizes the role of self-disclosure in the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis.
  2. gain skills in understanding how to work with both intentional and unintentional self-disclosure.
  3. be able to articulate the value and limitations of self-disclosure in clinical practice. As a result, students will be better able to respond flexibly and creatively to their patients.

January 14, 2022

[24 pages]

In this class session, we will review therapeutic action from a relational perspective, how self-disclosure fits in to this perspective, and different types of self-disclosure. Aron offers a philosophical basis for conceptualizing analysis as a mutually vulnerable endeavor. Self-disclosure is a natural extension of his perspective. While reading, keep the following questions in mind:

Reading Questions:

  • What is Aron’s notion of mutual vulnerability in psychoanalysis?
  • What are the philosophical underpinnings of this perspective?
  • What is your experience of vulnerability as an analyst? How have you handled it? Has self-disclosure been part of addressing your vulnerability in your work as an analyst? If not, what do you imagine this would be like?

Benjamin, J.B. (2016). Mutual vulnerability in clinical practice: An introduction. In G. Atlas. When Minds Meet: The Work of Lewis Aron. pp245-247.

Aron, L. (2016). Mutual vulnerability: An ethic of clinical practice. In G. Atlas. When Minds Meet: The Work of Lewis Aron. pp248-268.

Optional Reading

Maroda, K. (2012) Self-disclosure and advice in Psychodynamic Techniques: Working with Emotion in the Therapeutic Relationship, pp107-135.

Optionally, review this chapter read in previous course on relational psychoanalysis.

January 21, 2022

[10 pages]

We will continue our consideration of how relational theory links self-disclosure to  therapeutic action in psychoanalysis . Maroda provides an overview of the concept of enactment. She makes the case that self-disclosure on the part of the analyst is a critical element to the resolution of enactments.

Reading questions:

  • What is an enactment? How does the analyst as a person play a role in enactments?
  • How does Maroda conceptualize the role of self-disclosure in resolving enactments?

 Maroda, K.J. (2020). Deconstructing Enactment. Psychoanalytic Psychology 37(1): 8-17.

January 28, 2022

[20 pages]

Perhaps no issue related to self-disclosure is more controversial than analyst disclosure of erotic countertransference. In this paper, Davies provides a rationale for doing so with her patient.

Reading questions:

  • What is Davies’ justification for disclosing her erotic countertransference?
  • What do you see as the impact of her disclosing her countertransference to her patient?
  • Can you imagine a situation in which you might do the same?

Davies, J.M. (1998). Between the Disclosure and Foreclosure of Erotic Transference-Countertransference: Can Psychoanalysis Find a Place for Adult Sexuality? Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 8(6):747-766

February 4, 2022

[23 pages]

Mills, who identifies as a relational psychoanalyst, levels a strong critique of relational psychoanalysis and the use of self-disclosure.

Reading questions:

  • What does Mills suggest are the limitations of a postmodern approach to psychoanalysis?
  • Why does Mills believe there has been so much interest in relational psychoanalysis?
  • What does Mills see as the pitfalls of self-disclosure?

Mills, J. (2017). Challenging relational psychoanalysis: A critique of postmodernism and analyst self-disclosure. Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 14(3): 313-335