Defense mechanisms: we all have them. One of the trickier defense mechanism for most clinicians to understand is projective identification, in which an individual projects qualities deemed unacceptable to the self onto another individual who internalizes the feeling while believing it to be their own.


What steps should a clinician take when projective identification infiltrates relationships with patients or fellow clinicians? Philip Muskin, MD, MA, of the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry offers advice to mental health professionals on how to manage these dilemmas through always valuing a second opinion.   


On this episode of Menninger's Mind Dive podcast, Robert Boland, MD, and Kerry Horrell, PhD, speak with Dr. Muskin on the seemingly elusive definition of projective identification and its relation to psychiatrists. Dive into this exploration of how the issue presents itself in personal, professional and doctor-patient relationships, in which feelings of hopelessness or anxiety can occur even when they are not our own.  


“The important thing to remember about projective identification is that it is a normal human phenomenon,” said Dr. Muskin. “Don’t interpret feelings to anyone until you’re able to understand what you’re feeling and normalize it for yourself.”  


Dr. Muskin is a professor of psychiatry and senior consultant in consultation-liaison psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. He is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a Life Fellow of the Academy for Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. Dr. Muskin has been recognized with awards for his innovation, contributions and mentorship. He is currently a member of the Academy of Clinical Mentoring and Excellence and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.  


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