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A series of eight lectures from leaders in the field of psychoanalytic couple psychotherapy
Since its establishment in 1948 Tavistock Relationships has been instrumental in building a rich and effective therapeutic model to support couple relationships. The model is based on the principles of psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and grounded in decades of research, offering a depth approach to working with the couple relationship.
This series of lectures provides a comprehensive exploration of psychoanalytic perspectives on couple relationships as well as an understanding of how to work therapeutically with couples and is suitable for anyone working with couples, interested to start working with couples or simply interested in the complexities inherent in being in a relationship.
The talks include the importance of the interplay of past influences, present dynamics, as well as the future potential in couple relationships, framing the couple as vehicle for creative development throughout the life cycle.
The discussions encompass critical clinical aspects of couples work, including navigating the complex terrain of transference and countertransference, and adopting a distinctive approach that acknowledges the presence of three individuals in the therapeutic space.
These lectures collectively offer insights which will enrich your understanding of psychoanalytic approaches to the complexity of couple relationships.
Mary Morgan will describe the particular ways in which the couple relationship is viewed and treated in couple psychoanalytic psychotherapy as it has evolved over nearly 75 years at TR. She will consider the influence of the past and the ways in which relationships are often set up to repeat, manage or work through unresolved early conflicts and anxieties. She will look at the nature of the relationship in the present, shaped by the couple’s psychic development, unconscious phantasies, narcissistic relating and projective system. The third area, that of the future, emphasises the idea of the adult couple relationship as having the potential for development. It has the capacity to create something new, linked to the concept of the creative couple.
Much analytic work with individual patients takes place on the intricately layered terrain made up of our patients’ complex and shifting transference to their therapist and our own interpretations informed by the corresponding countertransference. Speaking to patients about our understanding of what is alive in the two-some of the analytic couple at any given moment is fundamental and lends each treatment its unique and particular atmosphere. This constantly changing transferential web holds within itself a multitude of repetitions and enactments waiting for interpretation. Krisztina Glausius in her lecture will consider the opportunities brought about by the introduction of the couple and their relationship into this already complex matrix. The extra dimension of ‘the third’ can both muddy the waters and clear up previously murky aspects of both the couple’s relationship and the internal world of each partner.
People are living longer, with many of us now reaching an age that would have been considered very old a generation ago. Our increased longevity presents us with particular psychological challenges, such as how to tolerate the losses of our physical and mental functioning. The feared catastrophes of old age, such as stroke or dementia, hang over us as possible futures most of us would rather not think about. Andrew will examine the difficulties many couples experience in facing the losses of old age. He will outline the factors that help us to sustain a lively engagement in life and an intimacy within relationships even in the face of these losses.
Stanley Ruszczynski will describe his understanding of the psychoanalytic concept of narcissism, including how it is essential to our understanding of, and clinical work with, couples. Stan will reference the space within which interactions between two people take place, a space he has previously referred to as ‘the marital triangle’. This might be a benign place of mutual recognition, within which both connection and separateness may be recognised, and hence a space for psychic development; or, it might be a malignant place, with very fragile or no awareness of the other’s separateness, resulting in psychic stagnation and sado-masochistic dynamics. Awareness of the other’s separateness creates space in the relationship; lack of that awareness, with the other being experienced as primarily an extension of the self, collapses the space.
Susanna Abse will give a psychoanalytic account of intimacy and discuss how intimate couple relationships require both ego fluidity and ego strength. She will show how intimacy between partners includes the merging of self and other boundaries and how this capacity to enter another’s experience, which is developed in infancy, is vital to satisfying emotional and sexual engagement. However, in therapeutic work with couples we also see how the breaking down of self/other boundaries can lead to destructive cycles of relating via projective identification. Susanna will offer clinical insights into identifying and differentiating these two ways of relating and she will discuss how the work of couple psychotherapists can strengthen the individual egos of each partner to bring about greater intimacy.
Historically, psychoanalysis has been credited for its transformative influence through interpreting transference within the patient-analyst relationship, employing language as the medium—the 'talking cure.' However, this framework poses challenges for therapists working with adult couples, where conflicts from the past resonate powerfully. Psychoanalysts recognise that foundational relationship assumptions form unconsciously before language symbolizes experiences. John Bowlby's attachment theory has fueled research, validating psychoanalytic principles and contributing to the understanding of transformative potential in relationships. This transformative capacity extends beyond specific therapeutic approaches, aligning with non-specific factors identified in psychotherapy outcome studies. This discussion explores these factors as integral to the interpretative process, shaping and resulting in therapeutic change.
In this talk, Leezah Hertzmann will describe some contemporary developments in psychoanalytic thinking about sexuality from a post-heteronormative standpoint, including an exploration of how heteronormative bias has relegated lived sexual experience to the side-lines. She will explore the role played by conscious and unconscious homophobia, the centrality of internalised homophobia, and the complexity of shame and its après coup nature. Whilst shame is a ubiquitous feeling and may not be relevant for all LGBTQI+ people, Leezah will discuss how there are elements of this struggle within all of us which can have an important bearing on both the analytic and supervisory relationships. Advocating a more flexible encounter in the consulting room whilst maintaining the frame can potentially illuminate an understanding of all sexualities including heterosexuality. Case examples will be discussed and clinical challenges and dilemmas considered.
Susan Pacey offers therapists insights into the challenges of working with body, mind and relationship when couples present with sexual problems. Currently clients seeking help must choose between a psychoanalytic/psychodynamic approach, which mostly addresses unconscious mental models of relating, and psychosexual therapy, which focuses primarily on the body and conscious couple interaction. In this way the profession seems to mirror the psychic splitting of sex and love, which Freud first identified and which is a common phenomenon in clinical work. There is a growing number of psychotherapists, however, who are working with both approaches and Pacey discusses psychological barriers to and benefits of integration.