1st Edition

Nourishing the Inner Life of Clinicians and Humanitarians
The Ethical Turn in Psychoanalysis

ISBN 9781315676814
Published November 19, 2015 by Routledge
220 Pages

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Book Description

Winner of the Clinical catergory of the American Board & Academy of Psychoanalysis Book Prize for best books published in 2016

Nourishing the Inner Life of Clinicians and Humanitarians: The Ethical Turn in Psychoanalysis, demonstrates the demanding, clinical and humanitarian work that psychotherapists often undertake with fragile and devastated people, those degraded by violence and discrimination. In spite of this, Donna M. Orange argues that there is more to human nature than a relentlessly negative view. Drawing on psychoanalytic and philosophical resources, as well as stories from history and literature, she explores ethical narratives that ground hope in human goodness and shows how these voices, personal to each analyst, can become sources of courage, warning and support, of prophetic challenge and humility which can inform and guide their work. Over the course of a lifetime, the sources change, with new ones emerging into importance, others receding into the background. 

Donna Orange uses examples from ancient Rome (Marcus Aurelius), from twentieth century Europe (Primo Levi, Emmanuel Levinas, Dietrich Bonhoeffer), from South Africa (Nelson Mandela), and from nineteenth century Russia (Fyodor Dostoevsky). She shows how not only can their words and examples, like those of our personal mentors, inspire and warn us; but they also show us the daily discipline of spiritual self-care, although these examples rely heavily on the discipline of spiritual reading, other practitioners will find inspiration in music, visual arts, or elsewhere and replenish the resources regularly.

Nourishing the Inner Life of Clinicians and Humanitarians will help psychoanalysts to develop a language with which to converse about ethics and the responsibility of the therapist/analyst. This is an exceptional contribution highly suitable for practitioners and students of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Trauma and Traumatism

Chapter 2 Radical Responsibility and Clinical Hospitality

Chapter 3 Is Ethics Masochism? Infinite Ethical Responsibility and Finite Human Capacity

Chapter 4 Philosophy as a Way of Life

Chapter 5 Witness to Indignity: Primo Levi

Chapter 6 Substitution: Mandela and Bonhoeffer

Chapter 7 Dostoevsky: Ethics as Optics

Chapter 8 Clinical and Humanitarian Work as Prophetic Word

Chapter 9 From Contrite Fallibilism to Humility: Clinical, Personal, and Humanitarian




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Donna M. Orange teaches, consults, and offers study groups for psychoanalysts and gestalt therapists. She seeks to integrate contemporary psychoanalysis with radically relational ethics. Recent books are Thinking for Clinicians: Philosophical Resources for Contemporary Psychoanalysis and the Humanistic Psychotherapies (2010), and The Suffering Stranger: Hermeneutics for Everyday Clinical Practice (2011), both from Routledge.


In this beautifully written and deeply moving new book, Donna Orange has once again provided us all with a an emotionally touching, intellectually stimulating, and ethically compelling, philosophically informed but clinically applied treatise. In her prophetic call to live life in the service of the other, "other-wise," she addresses the critical protestation that such a set of values enacts the helper's masochism and excessive self-sacrifice. Orange's book will help newer therapists become oriented within a pragmatic and humanitarian framework, and will provide the right balance of disturbing challenge and compassionate comfort for the most experienced clinicians. - Lewis Aron, Ph.D. director, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis.

To read Donna Orange’s book is to be disrupted. Our humanitarian work, she points out, demands of us that we take up the suffering of those who we meet, it demands more of us than we can possible provide. Our ‘prophetic (justice-seeking)’ work is never enough, never complete. And yet, at the same time, I am nourished and sustained by Orange's reminder of the profundity of the therapeutic meetings that call for my presence. She describes her sustaining ‘inner choristers.’ Her book will be one of mine. - Lynne Jacobs, - Lynne Jacobs, Co-founder, Pacific Gestalt Institute, Supervising and Training Analyst, Institute of Contemporary Analysis.

Orange's book marks the completion of a trilogy that has, in part, explored the implications of Levinas's ethical philosophy for clinical practice... This most recent work, however, addresses the inevitable concern and discomfort with the language of this ethics, especially within the context of clinical practice... Orange's present work addresses this very concern, maintaining her endorsement of Levinasian ethics while also paying special heed to our limitations and needs for nourishment along the arduous journey of clinical practice... As in her previous works, Orange has communicated complex philosophical ideas with dexterity and clarity. Graduate students and seasoned professionals alike can find this work enriching and inspring. Her writing style mirrors the ideas she promotes, displaying notable sincerity as she non-dogmatically reveals her own internal polyphony that... largely produces a mellifluous harmony of ispirational figures. It challenges the reader to take on the Levinasian call for infinite responsibility while also inviting us to explore literary sources to nourish our inner lives. It is recommended especially for practicing clinicans seeking to augment their moral vocabulary and for understanding their work within the context of a higher ethical calling. -Brian W. Becker, Lesley University, PsycCritiques

“But the amazing density of this book, coming in at under 200 pages, and the force of her personal and ‘borrowed’ conviction, obliges therapists of all kinds, in powerful and decisive ways, to look at themselves and strive to practise humility, humanity and heroism.” - Mark Mahemoff, MA, Individual and Couple Therapist, Private Practice