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Object Relations and Relationality in Couple Therapy Exploring the Middle Ground
Poulton, James
Jason Aronson / Rowman & Littlefield / Hardcover / 2012-11-01 / 0765708949
Relational / Interpersonal Psychoanalysis / Couple Therapy
reg price: $104.50 our price: $ 83.60 (may be subject to change)
202 pages
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During the course of psychoanalytic psychotherapy with couples, the practicing clinician is commonly faced with problems and issues that at times can seem nearly insoluble. In Object Relations and Relationality in Couple Therapy: Exploring the Middle Ground, James L. Poulton, PhD, surveys those problems and offers practical suggestions for their resolution. Through the use of extensive clinical material from couple cases, each chapter presents a specific issue, reviews the theoretical background that is essential for understanding it, and offers detailed illustrations of effective clinical interventions.

The issues addressed by this book include the following:

• the influence of intergenerational trauma on the couple’s functioning;
• dynamics of violence and sacrifice within the couple;
• the narcissistic couple and disillusionment with the therapeutic process;
• intensification of emotional stress that results when both partners share unconscious anxieties;
• appropriate and inappropriate uses of the therapist’s self-disclosure;
• integration of cultural issues in couple therapy;
• negotiating individual and shared transferences in couple therapy;
• the place of truth and certainty in the couple’s capacity to heal.

Object Relations and Relationality in Couple Therapy: Exploring the Middle Ground draws upon leading-edge innovations in both theory and technique to offer creative solutions to the common dilemmas in couple therapy. In current discussions of psychoanalytic treatment, two distinct but interrelated theoretical approaches predominate: object relations and relational theory. This book emphasizes the continuities and commonalities between these two approaches, particularly in their application to the treatment of couples, and argues that modern relational theories can be read as clinically useful elaborations of similar intuitions that have already been developing in the object relations oeuvre. The chapters in this book illustrate that there is a firm middle ground in which ideas and techniques from both theories can be integrated into a consistent therapeutic approach that provides a broad foundation for conceptualizing couple interactions and for designing interventions that facilitate the couple’s growth.


This book is a truly excellent example of what I believe to be a vital trend for the future of psychoanalytic therapy—the integration of different analytic orientations. James Poulton offers a masterful synthesis of object relations and relational approaches to couple therapy, blending the intrapsychic, the intersubjective, and the cultural. Object Relations and Relationality in Couple Therapy is filled with extensive case material illustrating how such a synthesis enhances clinical practice and also includes thorough examinations of timely topics such as trauma and hostility in couples, the nature and types of truth, shared internal objects, transference-countertransference entanglements, and therapist self-disclosure. Experienced therapists will deepen their couple work and new therapists will learn how to productively move the treatment to focus at times on the individuals, at times on the couple, and at times on the couple’s relationship with the therapist.

— Michael Stadter

An exceptionally clear, theoretically and clinically acute application of cutting-edge relational theory, focused on treating couples. Object Relations and Relationality in Couple Therapy has joined my collection of key reference sources.

— Richard Billow

Authoritative and highly engaging, James Poulton navigates the choppy waters of intersubjectivity in therapeutic work with couples in a manner that will appeal to therapists of different persuasions and levels of experience. Applying a clear exposition of concepts from object relations and relational theories to detailed clinical vignettes he makes a compelling and illuminating case for valuing uncertainty in therapeutic practice.

— Christopher Clulow, Tavistock Centre of Couple Relationships, London


1Shared Ground: Commonalities in Object Relations and Relational Approaches to Couple Therapy
2Negotiating Individual and Joint Transferences in Couple Therapy
3Shared Objects, Amplified Fear
4The Uses and Misuses of Self-Disclosure: The Value of Countertransference in a Relational World
5The Narcissistic Couple, Disillusion and Shared Resistances
6Crypts, Phantoms and Desire: Intergenerational Trauma in a Marital Relationship
7Violence and Sacrifice in a Marital Relationship
8The Cultural Third: Integrating Cultural Issues in Couple Therapy
9Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: Postmodern Lessons in Truth, Illusion and the Couple
About the Author

About the Author:

James L. Poulton, PhD, is a psychologist in private practice in Salt Lake City, and is an adjunct assistant professor in psychology and a clinical instructor in psychiatry at the University of Utah.

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other lists
April 2014 Recent Psychoanalytic Books
Couple Therapy
Jason Aronson
Relational / Interpersonal Psychoanalysis
Rowman & Littlefield
The Library of Object Relations