About me

I am a psychotherapist living and working in San Francisco, my City of Love. It has been more than a 40 year love affair. I am devoted to my work, my college age daughter, family and friends, playing tennis, exploring new restaurants, late night novel reading, excellent tv and movies…especially on the small screen.  My psychological worldview is Relational/Self Psychology/Psychodynamic. My socio-cultural worldview is a combination of feminist, artistic, scientific, and  ethical/value-oriented political philosophy.

To find out more about my psychotherapy practice, read the short article below and go to my website:

Phern Hunt, MFT, psychotherapist

Relational Psychology

The field of clinical psychology and psychoanalysis is about 100 years old. About 30 years ago therapists and psychologists discovered that the best way to understand their clients was by using the method of empathy: to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to find out how it feels for someone to act in a particular way from their inner world. Neuroscientists have now confirmed that humankind’s capacity for love and friendship sets us apart from all other species. Research has found that humans are hardwired to empathize with those close to them at a neural level, and that loved ones and friends actually become part of the self.

The self is a relational entity. You can think of it not just as the being something inside your skin, but as the area within you and between you and those close to you. I call this the Self-Other, sometimes called the self-object. It is best to visualize the relational self-other on a continuum, with Self at one end and Other at the other end. The Other can also include non-human entities, like God, or alcohol, or art. The relational self, as many empathic psychologists have discovered, has two fundamental needs, and are sometimes called transferences. The two relational needs are: Mirroring and Idealizing. Our mirroring need is to be seen and confirmed for being our unique self. Our idealizing need is to connect with the goodness of another person. So, one fundamental need is to be seen and recognized for who we really are, and the other is to be accepted, loved, and/or guided by someone who shares our values, interests or feelings. A psychologically healthy self is located more in the center of this continuum, with a balance of self-other needs and functions. An unhealthy self appears at each end of the continuum: all self or all other can lead to what we know to be psychological disorders. Failures in mirroring, idealizing, and empathy, if protracted, can result an unhealthy self. Empathic failures are inevitable and at the same time present an opportunity for repair and reconstitution of the self.

The self-other continuum can also be applied to the therapist and client relationship. Every individual has needs to be recognized and loved, and as therapists we certainly want to understand how those needs are being met or unmet in our clients.  That is the work that we do. We also have the same needs. Science has taught us that you cannot observe an object without taking the observer into account, because it is a relationship.  When we think about our clients, we cannot describe them objectively, because we have to understand that we are seeing them though our own subjective eyes. In psychodynamic therapy it is said that clients have transferences, i.e., they see the therapist through their own needs.  Therapists have countertransferences: we can see our clients through our own needs.  To be a good therapist it is necessary to go through one’s own process to ‘Know Yourself’. The result of therapy for the client should be: ‘Know Yourself  Better’.




1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jill's Journal
    Nov 29, 2014 @ 08:23:19

    I’m intrigued but a little over my head with this graduate-level therapy theory. I want to print it out and discuss with my best-friend sister, who’s a recently retired shrink in Berkeley. Is there an easy way to print it out?


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