When Social Privilege Favors the Patient: Power Negotiations and Confused Subordination in Psychotherapy


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Instructor: Abstract:

Malin Fors is an Erikson Scholar at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA.This lecture will focus on the seldom-addressed therapeutic dyad in which social privilege favors the patient. Through her matrix of relative privilege, Fors will discuss how social power issues are inevitably negotiated in the therapeutic setting and how this process plays out in transference, countertransference, and resistance. Drawing on empirical research from other areas on how people handle sudden loss of privilege, Fors explores the implications of such disparities and explores playful (versus more narcissistically defensive) ways to handle clinical situations in which a patient is dependent on a socially less-privileged therapist. 

Speaker Bio

Malin Fors is a Swedish psychologist and psychoanalyst living in the world’s northernmost town, Hammerfest, Norway. She has worked for a decade at the local hospital’s psychiatric outpatient unit and also has a busy private practice. She is an assistant professor at the University of Tromsø, the Arctic University of Norway, where she teaches medical students on topics of diversity, privilege awareness, and critical perspectives on cultural competency. For more than 10 years, as a guest lecturer at Gothenburg University in Sweden, Fors has taught clinical psychology students about how issues of power, privilege, and gender create biases in the assessment of psychopathology. She is the 2016 recipient of the Division 39 Johanna Tabin Award for her book A Grammar of Power in Psychotherapy, released last year by APA Press. She was featured in a demonstration DVD in the APA Psychotherapy Video Series, released in October 2018.

Format: Video or Audio Podcast


Learning Objectives

Identify the therapeutic dynamics of the situation of “privilege favoring the patient”.
Distinguish between playful way versus malign narcissistic ways to handle confused subordination in psychotherapy.
Recognize power of Proxy.

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