- Hyman Spotnitz
Hyman Spotnitz (
September 29, 1908- April 18, 2008) was an American psychoanalystand psychiatristwho pioneered an approach to working psychoanalytically with schizophrenics in the 1950s called modern psychoanalysis. He also was one of the pioneers of group therapy.
Background and Education
Born in Boston to immigrant parents, Spotnitz attended Harvard College and received a degree in medicine from Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin in 1934. He continued his medical studies at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, earning a Medical Science degree in
neurologyin 1939. His initial work on schizophreniawas conducted while a consulting psychiatrist for the Jewish Board of Guardians in New York City.
At the time, most psychoanalysts did not think that schizophrenia was treatable through therapy and group approaches were not popular. His approach was considered controversial, and he left the New York Psychoanalytic Institute to continue to develop his work.
On April 18, 2008 he died of natural causes.
Theory of technique
Spotnitz's treatment approach emphasizes the development of the
narcissistic transferencein which the patient relates to the therapist as if he were part of his own mind, rather than a separate person. He theorizes that most neurosesand severe mental illnessesoriginate in the preoedipal period, before the development of language. The transferencethat develops with these patients then is largely enacted nonverbally through behavior, symptoms, symbolic communications and, importantly, the transmission of feeling states, otherwise known as induced feelings. Spotnitz feels that the " [http://mmi.edu/narcissism.htm narcissistic defense] " is central to most mental disturbances and is characterized by self-hate rather than self-love. Aggression is directed towards the self in order to protect the object. Treatment then emphasizes helping patients to better metabolize their aggressive drives, by gradually being able to express their aggression in treatment. Spotnitz emphasized initially joining with the patient's resistance, rather than challenging, and using the countertransferencefeelings of the therapist to help understand the patient. His central focus on the objective, and hence clinically useful nature of the therapist's countertransference was later taken up by self psychologyand intersubjectiveapproaches to psychoanalysis. Also foreshadowing later developments in other schools (as did schools in the U.K. that preceded him,) Spotnitz's approach to the analyst's interventions are primarily intended to provide an emotional-maturational communication to the patient, rather than to promote intellectual insight. With this technique he was able to cure many patients previously deemed incurable by the psychoanalytic world.
Spotnitz was also one of the first psychoanalysts to advocate the use of groups. His approach to group treatment, also originally developed with schizophrenic clients, emphasized the therapist's use of his or her feelings induced by the group, and joining and reflecting rather than directly challenging group resistances. Spotnitz's work in psychoanalytic group therapy and in modern psychoanalysis in general has been continued and furthered by Stanley Hayden, Charles and Deborah Bershatsky, Leo Nagelberg, Lou Ormont, Leslie Rosenthal, Phyllis Meadow, Michael Brook and Bob Unger, among many others. Spotnitz focused on analysis of group resistances rather than individual resistances. He is the honorary president of more than 10 psychoanalytic institutes throughout the United States, including the Center for the Advancement of Modern Psychoanalysis, The Mid-Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis and the New Jersey Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies.
* "The Couch and The Circle: A Story of Group Psychotherapy", Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1961, ISBN 978-0-9703923-6-7
* "Modern Psychoanalysis of the Schizophrenic Patient: Theory of The Technique", Grune & Stratton 1969,YBK Publishers 2004, ISBN 0-9703923-6-2
* "Treatment of the Narcissistic Neuroses", with Phyllis W. Meadow,
Jason Aronson, 1976, 1995, ISBN 978-1-56821-416-0
* "Psychotherapy of Preoedipal Conditions: Schizophrenia and Severe Character Disorders", Jason Aronson, 1976, 1995, ISBN 978-1-56821-633-1
* "Just Say Everything: A Festschirft in Honor of Hyman Spotnitz", by Sara Sheftel, Assn for Modern Psychoanalysis, 1991, ISBN 978-0-9624534-0-3
* [http://www.jefflandau.com/Let'sTalk-InterviewsDrSpotnitz.pdf Schizophrenia, Alcoholism and Addiction] Let's Talk Interviews Dr. Hyman Spotnitz, with photos
* [http://www.ormont.org/ Lou Ormont's site] describing Ormont's method, based on Spotnitz's theories.
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