The Patient-Psychiatrist Relationship on the Axis of the Other and the Same

Gabriel Schreiber, Sofia Avissar, Alan Jotkowitz, Demian Halperin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The patient-psychiatrist relationship is a cornerstone of psychiatric professionalism and ethics. We discuss this topic along the axis of the Other and the Same, concepts defined by continental philosophy. The self of Anglo-American philosophy is typically described in individualistic terms. Individualism, autonomy and ideal self are valorized within the current model of care. These characteristics belong to the Lacanian Imaginary Order, which is the core of narcissism. Patients may yearn for another model of interaction. For Levinas, ethics should not involve a search for perfectionism and accomplishment but responsibility toward others. Ethics is, according to him, rooted in the calling into question of one’s Sameness by the other’s Otherness. The question of hospitality and of the welcoming of Otherness is central to his thought. Derrida further asks whether hospitality is not an interruption of the self. Hospitality may thus become a fundamental way of re-thinking clinical practices. A relationship to the Other as an-other is characterized as of Euclidian-type, establishing borders between the self and the Other, whereas a relationship to the Other as same is characterized as of fractal-type, emphasizing similarities between self and other as same and obliterating boundaries. Winnicott’s object-relating versus use of object and Buber’s I-you and I-it relations are also examined along the axis of Sameness and Otherness. Since psychiatric clinical practice requires to our view adequate and adaptive to and fro movements along this axis, the two forms of relating to the Other are discussed both theoretically and through a clinical case presentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-686
Number of pages12
JournalPsychiatric Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Ethics
  • Hospitality
  • Otherness
  • Patient-psychiatrist relationship
  • Professionalism
  • Sameness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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