What Are the Therapeutic Implications of Psychoanalytic Conceptualisations of God When Working Psychoanalytically With Christian Clients?

Florence, Helen Jane
O'Connor, John
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

This dissertation explores the question, "What are the therapeutic implications of psychoanalytic conceptualisations of God when working psychoanalytically with Christian clients?" Clients who identify as Christian are often reluctant to engage in psychotherapy or at least discuss belief in God during therapy, for fear that such belief will be pathologised. Freud's belief that God is an illusion has continued to influence contemporary psychoanaytic practitioners, despite alternative concepts of God suggested by later theorists. There is little written about the direct implications of psychoanalytic understandings of God in work with clients wo identify as Christian. This dissertation examines psychoanalytic thought about the nature of God and explores possible implications in working with this client group. The method used is a modified systematic literature review with thematic illustrations from clinical practice. The literature reviewed falls into two parts: psychoanalytic theories of God, and implications of working with clients with a belief in God. Findings suggest that God is either viewed as an illusion, an intrapsychic and interpersonal construct, a presence constructed in the intersubjective matrix, or a mystery beyond the bounds of analytic exploration. The dissertation highlights a number of implications which emerge from the above findings, both for the Christian client and for the psychoanalytic practitioner. These are noted and explored. Pertinent themes comprising an overview of the topic are discussed in further detail with attention to the future. Limitations of this research are delineated, and suggestions for further research are proposed.

Christian , God , Psychoanalytic psychotherapy , Therapeutic implications , Modified systematic literature review
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