chapter  6
13 Pages


Most clients seeking psychotherapy feel disempowered in some way: uncertain of themselves, unable to achieve their goals in life, no longer in command of their lives and their feelings, weak, marginalised, irrelevant – ‘a waste of space’ as it is sometimes so piteously described. (Representing his selfimposed futility and impotence, a patient dreamed of an interloper named Nils Borrodoss who had ‘squatted’ his house – a ‘nothing’, a ‘borrower’, ‘dossing down’ in his ‘citadel’.)

Chambers Dictionary (1972) defines power as follows: the capacity for producing an effect; strength; energy; right to command; authority. Therapists hope that treatment will enhance their clients’ ‘capacity for producing an effect’ – their efficacy, having a strengthened sense of self, fostering the ability to be an ‘author’-ity in the sense of knowing oneself, of being an ‘author’ of one’s own life. But how does psychotherapy empower? In some forms of therapy empowerment is an explicit focus – in assertiveness therapy clients are given homework tasks: to return faulty goods to a shop, or stand up to their spouses when they are feeling oppressed or bullied. In this chapter an attachment and relational perspective is used to think about the ways in which psychoanalytic psychotherapy empowers its clients.