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The Intergenerational and Cultural Transmission of Trauma in Chinese Couple Relationships

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The complexity of psychoanalytic couple therapy is magnified in a climate where intergenerational and cultural trauma abounds. A five session clinical consultation with a couple residing in Beijing, China provides a vivid illustration of the dynamic interplay between individual family histories characterised by loss and separation and a traumatic cultural climate marked by repeated foreign invasion, oppressive government policies, and politically imposed familial separations. The author contends that the juxtaposition of these familial and cultural traumas, combined with a time of rapid economic and social change in China, may partially account for the heightened sensitivity toward separation experienced within Chinese families and frequently expressed in the unconscious couple fit. Additionally, the author discusses challenges for American clinicians training couple therapists in China, such as the impact of translation, the mutually held historical suspicion and antagonism between the two nations, and the rapidly changing social norms within China itself.
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Keywords: Chinese mental health practice; couple therapist training; cultural trauma; intergenerational transmission; interpersonal unconscious; psychoanalytic couple therapy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2013

More about this publication?
  • Couple and Family Psychoanalysis Journal is a new international journal sponsored by the Bristish Society of Couple Psychotherapists and Counsellors, the Professional Association of the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships and aims to promote the theory and practice of working with couple and family relationships from a psychoanalytic perspective. It seeks to provide a forum for disseminating current ideas and research and for developing clinical practice.
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