Body Talk / Edition 1

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An increasing number of patients in psychotherapy, male and female alike, express anxieties and obsessive concerns about their bodies—thinness, facial features, being toned, or other aspects of their appearance. Less concerned with issues of gender and sexuality than with the narcissistic cathexis of the body and ways of shoring up the body ego, these patients require a specific responsiveness from clinicians. Dr. Janice Lieberman recommends that the traditional emphasis placed on patients speaking and therapists listening be balanced with an increased awareness and understanding of the many visual cues and communications exchanged in therapy. Stressing the important role of vision in the development of identity formation and self-esteem, she discusses such issues as mirroring, the gaze, the gleam in the eye, feeling invisible or falsely mirrored, and the learning early on to attach positive and negative values to one's appearance as they become manifest in the therapeutic relationship. These patients use the therapist as a spectator whose focus on their bodies helps supplement insufficient cathexis and repair feelings of deficit. Amply illustrated with clinical vignettes, Dr. Lieberman's treatment of patients who come to therapy with heightened narcissistic body awareness is both informative and instructive.

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Editorial Reviews

Henry J. Friedman
In Body Talk, Dr. Lieberman has produced a book that is scholarly, clinically relevant, and accessible. In focusing on the visual, a neglected aspect of psychotherapy, she educates the reader about looking, mirrors, self-image, the therapists's vulnerability to being observed, and the need to carefully observe and respond to visual aspects of patients. Their focus on their own bodies and the bodies of their partners needs to be understood in its own terms, rather than as metaphors. The author recommends an interactive, interpersonal approach to effectively engage these patients, and demonstrates with multiple clinical examples the impact of such responsiveness. This book, essential reading for clinicians working with body-obsessed individuals, also offers technical recommendations for the broader range of patients who have limited ability to think in terms of psychological dynamics.
Rosemary H. Balsam
Modern, forthright, scholarly, imaginative, sensible, and also psychoanalytic, this book addresses a gap in our literature about understanding and working with mean and women who are exceptionally absorbed with the look of their bodies. Our visually demanding society increasingly encourages this phenomenon, and Dr. Lieberman does a wonderful job of portraying the intersection between the contemporary culture and the internal worlds of her patients. She brings a twenty-five-year professional perspective to her acute observations and ably offers developmental theory to illuminate her patients' apparent fixity in concrete thinking, while demonstrating ways to prevent stasis and promote emotional growth in treatment. This is an exciting and intriguing book, the topic of which may become ever more relevant in the future.
Ethel Person
The most engaging authors job us into seeing things we haven't looked at before. Janice Lieberman does just that with her observation that today's patients talk more about body tone and weight than about sex and sex roles. This leads her to an always interesting and often witty discourse on the mutual gaze, narcissism, and therapeutic strategies. Throughout, she maintains a keen awareness of the importance of the historical moment and its influence on the way we regard looking and being looked at.
Noting that an increasing number of patients in psychotherapy express anxieties and obsessive concerns about their bodies, Lieberman, a psychoanalyst and teacher at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, asserts that these patients require a specific responsiveness from clinicians. Calling for increased awareness and understanding of the many visual cues and communications exchanged in therapy, she stresses the important role of vision in the development of identity formation and self-esteem, covering such issues as mirroring, the gaze, feeling falsely mirrored and how they manifest in the therapeutic relationship. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765702586
  • Publisher: Aronson, Jason Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 305
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Janice S. Lieberman, Ph.D. , is in the private practice of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic therapy in New York City. She is a faculty member and a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR). She serves on the editorial board of The American Psychoanalyst, is co-author of The Many Faces of Deceit: Omissions, Lies, and Disguise in Psychotherapy, and has published numerous articles in professional journals.

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Table of Contents



1. The Visual Ego
2. On Looking and Being Looked At, Seeing and Being Seen

3. Gaze and the Development of Body Narcissism
4. A Developmental Perspective on the Mirror

5. The Therapist's Rush to Metaphor
6. Working with Women Obsessed with Thinness
7. To See or Not to See
8. One Therapist's Countertransference

9. The Artist as Spectator and Spectacle
10. Visual Themes in Film and Literature

Vision in the Therapeutic Encounter



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