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207 Clinical Concepts and Theoretical Developments I Ego Psychology – 5 seminars

Seminar Leader: Dr. J. Fernando

Course Description

Introduction to Ego Psychology

The psychoanalytic term “ego psychology” refers to the understanding of the ego’s structures and of its interaction with the drives and with reality, and to the major theorists (such as Heinz Hartmann and Anna Freud) who wrote on these subjects. Despite their difficulty, the works of Heinz Hartmann and Ernst Kris (two foundational theorists studied in this Course) have clinical relevance to assessment, to interventions, and to an understanding of the nature of the analytic process. Their work has been enormously influential on many analysts, among them Margaret Mahler (in her work on separation individuation), and Peter Blos (in his work on adolescence). In fact, it will be argued that neglect of a complex, multilayered theory of the ego, and of the mind more generally, is often a stumbling block in understanding many psychological disorders, as well as developmental problems and trauma.  The ideas of Hartmann and Kris are also relevant to areas of applied psychoanalysis, such as the study of art, society, and anthropology.

Course Objectives

The goal of this course is to acquaint the student with the basic concepts of classical ego psychology developed by Heinz Hartmann and Ernst Kris. The study of such concepts of ego psychology as primary autonomous ego functions, and the independent functioning of the ego, allows an approach to an understanding of human development beyond conflict and trauma, in relation to cognitive factors and biological givens, as well as providing points of contact with a theoretical understanding of social factors and normal moral development and moral functioning. This will help at the theoretical level to integrate the psychoanalytic theory of human psychological functioning, especially the reality of contextual and systemic factors, and the psychological significance of social, cognitive, emotional, and biological development (1.1b,c). This study is also important in a comparative understanding of different psychotherapeutic modalities, especially those related to cognitive functioning such as CBT, thus helping students integrate a knowledge of comparative psychotherapy, recognizing key ideas used by differing therapies (1.3a, b).

After this course, students should be able to:

  1. Define and describe the basic concepts of ego psychology
  2. Relate the basic concepts of ego psychology to concrete clinical and extra clinical phenomena, thus facilitating integrating the psychoanalytic theory of human psychological functioning (1.1).
  3. Define and use the idea of complex theory and of levels of theory in relation to clinical data and clinical theory and interventions.
  4. Conceptualize ego and cognitive functioning as independent factors in therapy, and as a link between psychoanalytic theory and a number of more cognitively based psychotherapies, and thus as a help in understanding and comparing different modalities of psychotherapy based on their addressing of cognitive and emotional factors in the patient. (3).

Seminar 1

Required Readings

Hartmann, H. (1939). Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation (pp. 1-21). (David Rappaport, Trans.). New York, NY: International Universities Press.    (This book is available on PEPWEB, under the section on books.)

Hartmann, H. (1958). Comments on the Scientific Aspects of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 13, 127-146.

Shevrin, H. (2012). A contribution toward a science of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Review, 99, 491-509.

Seminar 2

Required Readings

Hartmann, H. (1939). Ego Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation (pp. 57-108).  (David Rappaport, Trans.). New York, NY: International Universities Press.

Shevrin, H. (2003). The consequences of abandoning a comprehensive psychoanalytic theory: revisiting Rappaport’s systematizing attempt. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 51, 1005-1020.

Seminar 3

Required Readings

Hartmann, H. (1950). Comments on the psychoanalytic theory of the ego. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 5, 74-96.

Hartmann, H. (1955). Notes on the theory of sublimation. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 10, 9-29.

Shevrin, H. (2010). The predictive power of a comprehensive psychoanalytic theory. Neuropsychoanalysis, 12, 39-42.

Seminar 4

Required Readings

Kris, E. (1950). On preconscious mental processes. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19, 540-560.

Kris, E. (1956). On some vicissitudes of insight in psycho-analysis. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 37, 445-455.

Seminar 5

Required Readings

Kris, E. (1956). The personal myth – a problem in psychoanalytic technique. Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association, 4, 653-681.

Kris, E. (1956). The recovery of childhood memories in psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 11, 54-88.

Blum, H.P. (2005). Psychoanalytic reconstruction and reintegration. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 60, 295-311.

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