Changes in the self in the course of psychotherapy

Mirosława Huflejt-Łukasik, Wacław Bąk, Rafał Styła, Krzysztof Klajs


The article is devoted to how the process and effects of psychotherapy may be analyzed and understood from the point of view of research on self-concept. Based on an analysis of the literature and their own clinical experience, the authors try to answer the following four research questions: (1) What does the change in self-concept in the course of psychotherapy consist in? (2) What is it that changes in self-concept: the structure, the content, or both? What are the mechanisms of the change? (3) What effects do changes in the self bring for the client’s functioning? (4) Is it possible for a change to occur in the course of psychotherapy without being accompanied by a change in the self? In order to answer these questions, a review of empirical research on changes in the content and structure of the self is carried out. The authors present the findings of studies referring, for example, to concepts such as: compartmentalization (Showers), self-complexity (Linville), objective self-awareness (Duval), possible selves (Markus), or self-concept clarity (Campbell). The final part of the article presents conclusions for practitioners. The highlighted issues include the building of a complete and generally positive self-concept, with those negative elements that bring more complete self-knowledge and give a direction to a person’s development. It is remarked that a change in the content of the self carries with it a change in self-structure, the latter being more strongly linked to adjustment and mental health than content change itself. The authors emphasize the protective role of positive future self-concept and point out that if the precondition of mental health and effective self-regulation is up-to-date and extensive self-knowledge, then psychotherapy by definition involves change in the self.


self-concept; the content of the self; self-structure; the effectiveness of psychotherapy; the process of psychotherapy

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