Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Self, Self-consciousness (Awareness), Therapeutic alliance, Psychotherapist and patient, Use-of-self, Clinician use-of-self, Deliberate use-of-self, Therapeutic relationship, Self as clinical tool, Clinician self-awareness


The purpose of this study was to examine the concept of the use-of-self in clinical practice through a historical lens, in order to clarify what is meant by the term, to illuminate the evolution of the concept, and to attempt to reconcile the perspectives of several theoretical approaches. Seven theoretical approaches were examined, they are presented in five sections. The first section examines the Classical Psychoanalytic Theory of Sigmund Freud. The second section examines expansions on and departures from the classical position and includes contributions made by Carl Jung and Carl Rogers. The third section highlights three postclassical theories which exemplify a more nuanced understanding of the clinician's role in clinical practice. These include Kohut's Self Psychology, Relational Theory using the work of Mitchell, and Intersubjectivity, based on the work of Stolorow. The fourth section addresses the clinician's role in promoting social justice and includes the Social Constructionist perspective and Critical theory. The final section discusses the application of traditionally Buddhist concepts to western clinical practice and mindfully-informed practice. The theories reviewed for this study reveal that the concept of use-of-self has undergone a notable shift in the past century. Despite ongoing investigation, the literature pertaining to the concept of use-of-self has consistently shown that the therapeutic relationship is the primary vehicle for client growth and change. Regardless of the clinician's theoretical approach, therapeutic growth and change always takes place in the living context of the relationship between clinician and client. While foundational theories are instrumental to clinical practice in that they provide an organizing framework, the essential core of clinical practice is the clinician's use-of-self in the therapeutic relationship. And ultimately, each clinician must continuously pursue self-knowledge and build self-awareness, qualities which enhance the clinician's participation in the therapeutic relationship.




iii, 53 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 45-53)