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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

Intersubjective Ego Psychology: A Clinical Illustration

Presenter:  Merton Shill, Ph.D.
Discussant:  Michael Shulman, Ph.D.

May 14, 2011
2-4 pm
Farmington Hills

The introduction of Intersubjectivity into American psychoanalysis 30 years ago precipitated a seemingly irreconcilable opposition between “one person” vs. “two person” conceptions of the analytic process. Both modern Freudian and intersubjective analysts have associated “one person” psychology with “classical” Freudian analysis, overlooking subsequent developments in ego psychology. The central role of ego functions, especially internal representations, in intersubjective mental functioning have, as a result, been omitted entirely from the intersubjective canon. The distinction drawn in the literature between a one vs. two person psychology does not necessarily follow from so-called classical Freudian thinking, nor does it accurately state the original usage of these two terms or reflect the way the mind actually works. This paper argues that the ego’s capacity for internal representation accommodates both one and two person perspectives, rendering two different models of the psychoanalytic process (and psychic functioning) unnecessary, confusing and inaccurate. An extended clinical example incorporating the analyst’s self-reflections during the hours and the intersubjective nexus with his patients will be used to illustrate these ideas.


1. Review the origins of “intersubjective,” “one person” and “two person” psychology in the psychoanalytic literature.
2. Trace the incorporation of internal representations of self and object experience, including intersubjective interactions, within ego psychology.
3. Show via clinical example how both one person and two person aspects of relating depend upon conflict-free ego functions which provide an integrated theoretical basis for understanding intersubjective experience.

About the presenter: Dr. Shill is a graduate in adult analysis of the New York Freudian Society and a candidate in child analysis at the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute. He is currently Adjunct Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School. His most recent psychoanalytic publications deal with ADHD in children, signal anxiety and the pleasure principle, self-disclosure in psychoanalysis, intersubjectivity and ego psychology and a discussion of "The Pleasure Principle" in Corsini’s Encyclopedia of Psychology. Forthcoming publications include entries on Countertransference and Trauma in the Encyclopedia of Psychoanalytic Terms & Concepts to be published by the American Psychoanalytic Association.