JILL SAVEGE SCHARFF, MD
DAVID E.SCHARFF, MD
International Institute of Object Relations Therapy
Object-relations couple and family therapy is a group-analytic approach built from psychoanalytic object-relations theory and technique, developmental theory, attachment theory, sexuality research, systems theory, group theory, and chaos theory.
Fairbairn's systematic, relational theory of psychic structure has had the greatest impact on the object relations approach to couple and family therapy (D. Scharff & Birtles, 1994; D. Scharff & J. Scharff, 1987, 1991). Other important influences are (1) Winnicott's ideas on the mother-infant relationship, (2) Klein's concept of projective identification accounting for unconscious communication between two individual personalities, and (3) Bion's theories of mental processing and group functioning (D. Scharff, 1996). Taken together, these theories show how one personality interacts with another in the intimate relationships of family life.
In this chapter, we will review and integrate the basic building blocks of object-relations, couple, and family therapy (ORCFT) and will present vignettes to show how ORCFT is applied in clinical practice.
Some couple and family therapists read the word psychoanalytic and close the book. To them, it implies a silent, blank screen approach to the individual patient, with too much emphasis on sexual and aggressive instincts as