“Psychoanalytic insight…is an insufficient vehicle of patient change because it often leaves patients asking their therapists, ‘So what?’”

January 8, 2021

Psychologist Samuel Salamon reviews the psychoanalytic tradition of relying on insight to trigger change. He also discusses the work of those who challenge this tradition and instead contend that it’s the therapist’s responsibility to awaken and enlist the patient’s sense of agency. Salamon conceptualizes “existential responsibility as the relationship—through action or inaction—between an individual and his or her predicament”; he further states that “an individual is responsible for his or her predicament regardless of whether he or she has insight into the unconscious mechanisms that led to its formation.” Salamon argues that therapists need to help patients develop both insight into their internal processes and an active understanding of the consequences for their own lives of their actions or inactions. 

“Insight and responsibility: A psychodynamic-existential approach to psychotherapy,” by Samuel Salamon, The Humanistic Psychologist, 2019, Vol. 47, No. 1, 52-75.