Neutrality revisited: On the value of being neutral within an empathic atmosphere

Charles J. Gelso, Katri Kanninen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Using psychoanalysis as a starting point, we explore the value of therapeutic neutrality in psychotherapies that seek to foster self-understanding, experiencing, and insight. Contrary to much of the current zeitgeist, therapist neutrality is posited to be a key element of effective psychotherapy in such approaches. We suggest 5 meanings of effective therapeutic neutrality: The therapist (a) takes, at least in part, an observer position in the relationship; (b) refrains from taking sides in the patient’s inner struggles; (c) also does not take sides in the patient’s relational struggles; (d) refrains from manipulating the patient into emotional expression; and (e) follows some guide- lines about when to directly gratify the patient’s dependency and affectional needs/demands. Rules of thumb are presented about the conditions under which direct gratification is called for. However, as a bottom line, if neutrality is to be an effective stance in any psychotherapy, it must be carried out in the context of empathy, caring, and affirmation.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)330–341
JournalJournal of Psychotherapy Integration
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • neutrality

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