The implicit teacher

Perlitz (2019) sets forth the implicit qualities of an analyst (i.e. “the analyst acting and reacting based on her storehouse of relational, procedural memory”, p. 429) that make a difference in how the relationship between the analyst and the patient unfolds. They are both transformed by the implicit relational process that they co-construct. Given this hoped for outcome, the subjectivity of the analyst plays a critical role in helping the patient. In other words, we bring our whole selves to the analytic endeavor, as analyst and as patient. Holding this idea in concert with the compelling evidence that the therapeutic alliance trumps technique in promoting insight and change, it’s not far to the conclusion that who the analyst is must be more important than a particular theory or technique – what the analyst does – although a (particular?) set of techniques would seem to necessarily follow.

Applying this model to the teacher-student relationship, perhaps it is the person of the teacher that matters more than any particular theory of teaching and learning. And, perhaps the central importance of the teacher has been forgotten in an environment heavily biased towards quantitative metrics, cookie cutter teaching approaches, and a need to make the teaching process more efficient and routinized. As noted in so many other kinds of bureaucratic contexts, technical-rational methods have disrupted the relational dynamics central to the capacity to think and to the learning process.

Perlitz notes “Although the general importance of the analyst’s personality has been noted, there has been little attempt to delineate specific (italics in original) qualities of the analyst’s personality that may be conducive to psychotherapy” (p. 429). Reading teaching through this lens we might ask ourselves – who must the teacher be in order to produce the student? Beyond that, who must the teacher be to produce a learner?

Perlitz suggest eight qualities of the “implicit analyst” that are necessary and must be “salient for effective, optimally responsive psychotherapy” (p. 430):

  1. Maintaining hope
  2. Appropriate affection
  3. Privileging the needs of the patient
  4. Willingness to acknowledge limitations/errors
  5. Acceptance of where/who the patient is
  6. Maintaining curiosity
  7. Tolerance for ambiguity (negative capability) 
  8. Compassion

What can we say about the qualities of the implicit teacher?

For me effective teaching is a process that invokes many of the qualities listed above. That is, we must ask ourselves – can we maintain a sense of hope and affection? Can we privilege the needs of the student over our own – that is, their need to learn and what they need to learn over our own agenda? Are we willing to acknowledge our own limitations and can we change the way we think in light of what students may constructively bring to the conversation? Can we maintain curiosity and compassion for who and what the student is and what they experience in their role as learner? Can we maintain negative capability and function as a container for the learning process?

Join us for a discussion of the psychoanalytic approach to teaching our 3rd biennial workshop entitled: “New Engagement with the Future: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Anxieties and Defenses in Teaching and Learning (about Management and Organizations)”. The workshop will be presented online as part of the annual symposium of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations on June 29, 2022 at 6:30am CST.

For more information and to sign up visit the ISPSO Annual Meeting website:

View the videos from our last workshop here.

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