A contemporary Self Psychological, Intersubjective Approach to Couples Psychoterapy - This paper applies central tenets of self psychology and intersubjective systems theory (e.g., Stolorow and Atwood, 1992) to couples therapy. The concepts of selfobject needs, unconscious organizing principles, and implicit relational knowledge are used to understand and conceptualize common couples’ difficulties. A treatment approach is outlined, focused on improving partners’ abilities to function as a reliable source of selfobject experience for each other. Major components include listening from within each partner’s subjective perspective, attuned responsiveness to each partner’s selfobject needs, close attention to narcissistic vulnerability, and the establishment of a joint therapeutic dialogue through which each partner’s selfobject needs, organizing principles and implicit relational patterns can be illuminated and gradually transformed. The functions of defensiveness, resistance and aggression are discussed from this perspective, along with suggested responses to help reduce them. Overall, change is thought to occur through both partners’ increased understanding of each other and their relationship, and through the facilitation of new relational experiences (between each partner and the couples therapist, and eventually between the partners) which eventually lead to new implicit relational knowledge for both partners. A case example is used throughout the paper to illustrate key points.
Keywords: Couples Therapy - Self Psychology - Intersubjectivity