Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Between subject and object: Object relations and intersubjectivity in the mentoring relationship

Gretchen Jennifer Hendricks, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Grounded in a constructivist framework, this study constitutes a naturalistic inquiry into the psychodynamic nature of the mentoring relationship. The goals were both exploratory and descriptive; data was generated through surveys and semi-structured interviews. While some attention was given to the pragmatic, or manifest task of the protege's career development, the focus was placed on the psychological, or latent task of mutual personal development. The intersubjective and interpersonal aspects of mentoring were approached from a psychoanalytic perspective, drawing extensively from object relations and drive theory. Erikson's midlife stage of generativity was also considered as pertaining to the mentor's fitness for the role. Viewed as a transitional relationship with a developmental course of its own, three stages of mentoring were identified: The stage of initiation was examined in terms of pre-Oedipal concerns, the stage of cultivation in terms of Oedipal concerns, and the stage of resolution in terms of the process of working-through. Comparing the pre-Oedipal mother-infant dyad with the mentoring dyad, themes of the good-enough mother, the holding and facilitating environment, and transitional phenomena emerged. Modes of internalization were considered as bridging pre-Oedipal and Oedipal stages of development. Oedipal dynamics and development were articulated through an understanding of the mentoring relationship as hierarchical and thus as occurring within a transference-countertransference matrix. Given the parallels, an analogy was drawn to the relationship between analyst and patient in order to deepen the emphasis upon the tacit dimension of mentoring and the complex relationship in which it occurs. Further, the mentoring relationship was regarded as involving both libidinal and aggressive aspects requiring careful management. Finally, as mentoring is both transitional and transferential, it may be understood as a crucible of adult development which fosters a deeper integration of the various aspects of self. It is defined as an essential experience when intrapsychic deficit and conflict impede creativity and work. The study's theoretical foundation allows for an examination of how the external object world becomes internalized, and how internal objects become the structure of the self transformed into ideas, ideals, and acts of science and culture.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Educational psychology|Academic guidance counseling

Recommended Citation

Hendricks, Gretchen Jennifer, "Between subject and object: Object relations and intersubjectivity in the mentoring relationship" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9619394.