OBJECT RELATIONS/PSYCHODYNAMIC FAMILY THERAPY
THEORISTS: JAMES FRAMO, NORMAN PAUL, JILL SCHARFF AND DAVID SCHARFF
Theory of Object Relations: The human need for acceptance and approval from one’s parents is so strong that the child will sacrifice his/her own ego identity to maintain the relationship.
Object relations theory derives from the work of John Bowlby’s attachment theory and the idea that humans are primarily motivated by the need for contact, attachment, and the need to form relationships. Object relations family therapists believe that individuals relate to people on the basis of expectations formed by early experiences with their caretaker(s). The term “objects” refers to significant others from a person’s childhood, usually caregivers. Individuals tend to repress the negative aspects of early relationships and project these negative aspects onto other individuals (in future relationships) such as their spouses or children. James Framo combined intergenerational and object relations components and considered the entire family as the client.
- Analyze intrapsychic (in your mind) and interpersonal dynamics
- Promote client insight
- Work through insight to develop new ways of relating to self and others
- The object is not a literal representation of the caretaker or an inanimate object, but a significant other from a person’s childhood, parts or symbols of persons, usually a parent or caretaker.
- Internalized object, is usually experienced as being either good or bad.
- Parental Introject
- The internalized negative aspects of parents (considered the most significant dynamic affecting individuals and family functioning).
- External object can be expressed in one of three ways:
- As an ideal object, which leads to feelings of satisfaction
- As a rejecting object, which leads to anger
- As an exciting object, which leads to longing
- Projective Identification
- A defense mechanism used by an individual to project undesirable parts of him/herself onto another individual such as his/her partner or caretaker, who is then conditioned to act in accordance with these projections.
- Holding Environment
- A caring therapeutic relationship between therapist and client.
- The moment in therapy when the client gains conscious understanding of his/her own negative cognitions and problematic behaviors that affect his/her relationships.
- Working Through
- The practice of gaining insight and using that insight to transform behavior.
- Dirty Middle
- Refers to the middle of therapy when insight is achieved, but working through is at an impasse.
- The experience of feelings, thoughts, attitudes, fantasies, and defenses toward a person in the present (often the therapist) that are inappropriate to that person and are a repetition or a displacement of reactions originating from previous (often parental) relationships.
ASSESSMENT AND TREATMENT
- Therapists take a multigenerational family history
- Therapy is not directed toward symptom relief, but toward helping the family gain insight, and working through
- Clients gain insight as it relates to their families of origin and themselves. As they gain insight, they achieve the ability to alter the negative multigenerational patterns within their systems
- The goal of object relations is gaining insight and working through
- Object relations therapy is long-term and lasts (on average) for approximately two years
STANCE OF THE THERAPIST
- Multidirectional partiality
- Therapist empathises with each family member and recognizes the value in each member’s perception. Therapist is NOT impartial or neutral.
- Therapeutic Neutrality
- The therapist establishes an atmosphere of nonjudgmental exploration.
- Therapist assumes an active role, responding to unconscious material.
- Therapist relies on self-report