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The application of contemporary self psychology to couple psychotherapy

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This article summarises what the author sees as contemporary self psychology's main contributions to understanding and treating couples. The concepts of selfobject experience and needs, the "forward edge" of even very dysfunctional behaviour, and the centrality of the sense of self, add to our understanding of couples and the reasons for their difficulties. In addition, the theory's emphasis on listening from the patient's point of view, empathic attunement, viewing the therapist as a source of selfobject experience for the patient, close attention to narcissistic vulnerability and the rupture and repair sequence, and a collaborative, experiencenear interpretive process are all at least as useful in couple treatment as they are in individual treatment. From this perspective, the goal of couple therapy is to improve the partners' abilities to function as a reliable source of attuned selfobject experience for each other by targeting the various factors that interfere with their doing so, detailed in this article. The article also proposes that in some cases, psychoeducation, coaching, or suggestions can be experienced by the partners as attuned selfobject responses and/or can facilitate such responses between them, and thus can be appropriately part of a fundamentally psychoanalytic couple treatment.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2021

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  • Couple and Family Psychoanalysis aim is 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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