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  • Writer's pictureDouglas Zimmerman

Going for Broke: A Subjective/Intersubjective Approach

This is not an academic paper, so I will not dive formally into the citations from the various therapists who have spoken about the therapist’s use of his subjectivity in the analysis room, but I will quickly mention some of them here: Sullivan, Mitchell, Benjamin, Hirsch, Ehrenberg, and many others – they have written much about this subject – so there is my nod to those before me.

But what does it mean to me? And what do I mean about ‘going for broke?’ Well, first, my strong bias is there cannot be a truly objective person in the therapy room. The relationship between therapist and patient shifts the mood and opinions and stance between analyst and analysand (also known as intersubjectivity). And secondly, the analyst’s journey will change the observation and interventions. Werner Heisenberg discussed this phenomenon in much greater detail in his work on quantum mechanics, but for our purposes – simply think of it as this: the observer changes what is being observed; or to make the point greater, the observer is observed – which, in turn,changes the whole observation. Does this mean that there is no objectivity in the therapy room?

Well, that depends. I suppose, literally, the answer is “Yes (or no), there is no objectivity.” But one hopes that the analyst has gone through his own analysis and continues to discuss cases with peers and supervisors to see where his blind spots might be. This should be standard fare for any good therapist, the constant tracing and retracing of his steps, techniques, and theories.

And what about ‘going for broke?’ I have been thinking a lot about this of late. For me, this concept is about not holding back. Risking – risking getting fired, risking annoying a patient, risking certain self-disclosures. I have found that if I am not able to go for broke, I am limiting my abilities as a good therapist. This does not mean that every therapist should work this way.

And I don’t believe this is reckless therapy. It’s quite conscious and I’ll employ it when I sense there is a deadening in the therapy room. It works for me and my personality. Indeed, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I find that working in this manner helps develop a trust between myself and the patient and enables us to go much deeper into therapy, drawing out the unconscious; and indeed, helping to see red flags in one’s thoughts and behaviors that might be preventing the patient from living a rich and fulfilled life.

As I have said often, the healing in any therapy for any disorder, let alone OCD, occurs within the relationship between patient and analyst. It’s an ongoing dance, with each person exchanging leads as the therapy shifts towards greater insight and a keener understanding.

Douglas Zimmerman

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