Handbook of Family Therapy: The Science and Practice of Working with Families and Couples

By Thomas L. Sexton; Gerald R. Weeks et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

Object-Relations and Psychodynamic Approaches to Couple and Family Therapy

JILL SAVEGE SCHARFF, MD

DAVID E.SCHARFF, MD
International Institute of Object Relations Therapy


INTRODUCTION

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.


HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF THE APPROACH

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

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