The Therapeutic Imagination: Using literature to deepen psychodynamic understanding and enhance empathy (Hardback) book cover

The Therapeutic Imagination

Using literature to deepen psychodynamic understanding and enhance empathy

By Jeremy Holmes

© 2014 – Routledge

200 pages

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Paperback: 9781138789494
pub: 2016-01-21
Hardback: 9780415819572
pub: 2014-06-19
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315879826
pub: 2014-06-20
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Use of the imagination is a key aspect of successful psychotherapeutic treatments. Psychotherapy helps clients get in touch with, awaken, and learn to trust their creative inner life, while therapists use their imaginations to mentalise the suffering other and to trace the unconscious stirrings evoked by the intimacy of the consulting room.

Working from this premise, in The Therapeutic Imagination Jeremy Holmes argues unashamedly that literate therapists make better therapists. Drawing on psychoanalytic and literary traditions both classical and contemporary, Part I shows how poetry and novels help foster therapists’ understanding of their own imagination-in-action, anatomised into five phases: attachment, reverie, logos, action and reflection. Part II uses the contrast between secure and insecure narrative styles in attachment theory and relates these to literary storytelling and the transformational aspects of therapy. Part III uses literary accounts to illuminate the psychiatric conditions of narcissism, anxiety, splitting and bereavement. Based on Forster’s motto, ‘Only Connect’, Part IV argues, with the help of poetic examples, that a psychiatry shorn of psychodynamic creativity is impoverished and fails to serve its patients.

Clearly and elegantly written, and drawing on the author’s deep knowledge of psychoanalysis and attachment theory and a lifetime of clinical experience, Holmes convincingly links the literary and psychoanalytic canon. The Therapeutic Imagination is a compelling and insightful work that will strike chords for therapists, counsellors, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists and psychologists.


'The Therapeutic Imagination is a beautiful, innovative book, both in Holme's creative approach to writing and his deep psychological insights. It is highly recommended to psychotherapists of all schools, psychiatric training centers, and all readers who are interested in innovating developments in psychiatry.'- Alma Halbert Bond, PsycCRITIQUES

‘Once again, Jeremy Holmes dazzles. Part master class in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and part psychological journey through classics of English literature, this tour de force is a scholarly, integrative and deeply original look at the links between psychotherapy and the imagination. Moving deftly between fiction and the consulting room, Holmes brings alive the literary, artistic and creative processes that make for truly helpful and transforming psychotherapy. A wonderful read.’ - Arietta Slade, Clinical Professor, Yale Child Study Center, USA

‘Jeremy Holmes's The Therapeutic Imagination succeeds in rethinking the assumptions of one discipline from the standpoint of another, without compromising the integrity of either one. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the relationship between literature and the life we all live.’ - Neil Vickers, Reader in English Literature and the Medical Humanities, King's College London, UK

Table of Contents

The Poetics of Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy and Narrative. Psychotherapeutic Approaches to Psychiatric Diagnoses. ‘Only Connect’: Psychotherapy and Psychiatry.

About the Author

Jeremy Holmes worked for 35 years as a Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Psychotherapist in the NHS. He is currently Visiting Professor at the University of Exeter, UK, and lectures nationally and internationally. Recent publications include The Oxford Textbook of Psychotherapy, Storr’s The Art of Psychotherapy and Exploring in Security: Towards an Attachment-Informed Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / General