A Potential Space| Discovering a Place for D.W. Winnicott in the Psychoanalytic Literature on Drug Addiction

by Karl Southgate

Institution: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Year: 2016
Keywords: Mental health; Psychology
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2116375
Full text PDF: http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=10125951


This dissertation provides readers with a general framework for understanding drug addiction from a Winnicottian perspective that can help clinicians to better understand and work with clients who struggle with drug addiction. The underlying purpose of developing such a framework is not to formulate a “master theory” that is applicable to all cases of addiction or that claims to encompass all of the myriad facets of addiction—such an endeavor would prove impossible, reductionistic, and hubristic. Rather, this dissertation uses Winnicott’s theories to identify and explore emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and developmental components of addictive processes that are present in some—but not all—cases of addiction. Although etiological factors play a prominent role in this dissertation, I argue that a Winnicottian approach can help clinicians to work with clients regardless of how much is known about their pasts and illustrate that a Winnicottian perspective need not be reductionisitc. I developed this model by applying the insights gleaned from primary and secondary literature to a case study. More specifically, I analyze the case utilizing three especially prominent themes in Winnicott’s theory: being, aggression, and creativity. Doing so enabled me to conclude the following regarding addiction: From a Winnicottian perspective, an individual’s relationships with drugs of abuse are both interpersonal and regressive in nature and are founded upon the need to experience the personal aliveness that accompanies the actualization of one or more developmental potentials.