ETHNIC INVISIBILITY, IDENTITY, AND THE ANALYTIC PROCESS

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Abstract

The burgeoning literature on ethnicity in psychoanalytic therapy has demonstrated the need for the therapist to be aware of the cultural backgrounds of both patient and therapist and how they are similar or different. Most multicultural cases in the analytic literature involve racial difference between patient and analyst and therefore the ethnic differences are immediately visible. This paper focuses on the analytic treatment of an Argentine American whose ethnicity was not apparent to the therapist and whose ethnicity did not appear to be at issue. The importance of the patient's cultural heritage only became manifest when her stereotypical gender attitudes stalled analytic progress. This case is used to demonstrate: (1) the invisibility of ethnicity compared to the immediate recognizability of race; and (2) the relevance of historical and cultural background in identity formation and their critical role in the analysis of patients from ethnic minority backgrounds even when this background does not appear to be influential in the lifestyle of the patient.

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