Marvin Frankel

Marvin Frankel

Undergraduate Discipline


BA, City College of New York. PhD, University of Chicago. Clinical internship in client-centered therapy, Counseling Center of the University of Chicago; postdoctoral fellowship at Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey. Contributed recent chapters and articles that deal with the changing nature of the psychotherapeutic relationship, the anatomy of an empathic understanding, we-centered psychotherapeutic relationships, and the clinical education of nondirective and directive psychotherapists. SLC, 1972–2018

Previous Courses

Ways of Knowing Each Other: Psychotherapeutic Models and the Restoration of Freedom

Open , Seminar—Year

What are the narratives of people who have no reason to fear being negatively judged? We will review therapeutic transcripts such as these: 1. “Can I be what I have never been?” (comment by Alice in first therapeutic session) “I no longer wonder what I ought to be but only what I can be.” (comment by Alice in 10th therapeutic session) Is this progress? 2. Therapist: “How do you know your relationship is over?” Client: “Our conflicts are not interesting!” Is this an excellent measure of the health or illness of a relationship? 3. The client has terminal cancer. Client: “My family believes I am in denial.” Therapist: “And you?” Client: “For me, dying is just my final experience. I won't give it any more respect than that.” Is this wisdom or denial? 4. Break up of a relationship: Client: “I feel so guilty for hurting him.” Therapist: “For no longer loving Jeff?” Client: “Exactly...” Therapist: “But wasn't loving Jeff a pleasure?” (“Uh huh”) “If so, then why would you feel guilty over losing a pleasure?” Does the therapist make good sense to you? Over the past century, the concepts of “wisdom” and “ignorance” have been replaced by “health” and “illness.” Vanity has been replaced by narcissism and our pretensions by insecurities. We are asked to accept the seeming paradox that a person “can always make something out of what is made of him.” We consult psychologists and psychiatrists rather than philosophers to become cured rather than educated. The cure is presumably accomplished through a series of conversations between patient and doctor, but these are not ordinary conversations. Despite more than a century of practice, there remains little agreement among these practitioners of “health” regarding what the content of the conversations should be or the proper roles of doctor and patient. Moreover, the relationship between one psychologist and patient is vastly different from the relationship of another psychologist and client. Consequently, the patient who sees a psychoanalyst has a very different kind of experience from a patient who seeks the help of a person-centered therapist or a behaviorally-oriented psychotherapist. This course will examine the rules of conversation that govern various psychotherapeutic relationships and compare those rules with those that govern other kinds of relationships, such as those between friends, teachers and students, and family members.

Related Disciplines

Individualism Reconsidered: Beyond Pride and Shame

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never harm you.” Can anything be further from the truth? This course will examine how reputation in all its guises shadows our lives. Do we not dispense praise and blame to control the lives of others? Can we deny that pride and shame represent the rewards and punishments that we employ to imprison ourselves? Can we inhabit a world that goes beyond pride and shame? For example, consider the following tale: Alexander the Great allegedly came across the philosopher Diogenes, clothed in rags and taking a sunbath while reclining on the street. According to one version of this tale, Alexander asked Diogenes if there were anything he desired. If there were, then certainly Alexander would grant his wish. Diogenes waved his hand and replied: “Stand out of my light.” Addressing his troops, Alexander exclaimed, “If I were not Alexander the Great, I would like to be Diogenes.” What of you, dear student?

The Empathic Attitude

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

It is when we try to grapple with another man’s intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun. —Joseph Conrad

We mark with light in the memory the few interviews we have had, in the dreary years of routine and of sin, with souls that made our soul’s wiser; that spoke what we thought; that told us what we knew; that gave us leave to be what we…were. —Emerson, Divinity School Address, 1838

After graphically describing her predicament to her cousin Molly, Sarah asked: “So, do you understand?” “Yes, I do, I certainly do,” her cousin replied. “You do?” Sarah asked again. “Most emphatically, I do.” “Then you agree with me?” “Oh no.” “You sympathize with me then?” “No, I don’t.” “Then you at least see it from my point of view.” “Hardly.” “Then what do you understand?” “You are simply a fool!” “How dare you judge me?” “If I see it from your point of view, I shall only be a different kind of judge. My dear Sarah, don’t you see that there is no escaping judgment?”

For Conrad, the other is so shrouded in mists that our empathic understanding must necessarily fall short. For Emerson, an empathic rapport is rare but possible. As for Sarah and Molly, what can we say? Do they completely fail to understand each other, or do they understand each other only too well? Indeed, what do we mean by understanding in this context? Too often, understanding is confused with agreement or the absence of judgment. This course will examine what an empathic understanding entails and the function of empathy in defining areas of conflict, as well as in the resolution of conflict. In brief, the empathic attitude requires us to enjoy and appreciate the differences between ourselves and others even as we attempt to bridge those differences.

Related Disciplines