Minding the body : questions of embodiment and the practice of psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

It is well understood that psychoanalysis began with Freud’s encounter with hysteria and his work with illnesses of the mind which manifested in bodily terms. However, despite its close connection to the body and the understanding that psychoanalytic theory and practice develop hand-in-hand, psychological conflict that expresses itself in physical terms and more especially the role of the two bodies in the therapy room has received relatively little attention. The topic of this research project is captured in its title: “Minding the Body”, and the four journal articles it presents interrogate the relationship between the mind and body of both the patient and therapist. The thesis begins with two published papers which focus on the body of the patient, rehearsing and extending the psychoanalytic theory of bodily psychopathology and the implications that the different understandings of the relationship between body and mind in different forms of psychosoma have for clinical interventions. The second two papers examine what the analyst’s interpretation of her somatic responses to the patient, and the patient’s engagement with the analyst’s body, can reveal about the dynamics of the therapeutic dyad. The project concludes with a discussion of the clinical implications of a greater focus on the two bodies in the room, suggesting that the techniques developed to make sense of the patient’s physical symptoms can be usefully applied to decode the somatic countertransference as it manifests in a particular therapeutic dyad. That process, coupled with an awareness of the patient’s engagement with the therapist’s body, can create conditions under which the analyst’s body may become an analytic object and this can add significantly to the analytic repertoire.