Couples and Family Psychoanalytical Therapy Models
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy of the couple and attachment
Giulio Cesare Zavattini (Rome, Italy)
Many theorists pointed out that the concept of reciprocity could be seen as an important element of comparison between the paradigm of attachment, the infant research and object relation theory (Fonagy, 2001; Cortina, Marrone, 2003; Stern, 2004; Holmes 2007). These studies shed light on how behaviour and psychological phenomena are not the outcome of isolated intra-psychical processes, but originate in the interface between individual experiential words mutually interacting. Such a process in human beings implies the reciprocal involvement of two minds, where the subjectivity of an individual grows and is moulded being ‘mirrored’ in the other’s eyes.
Basing ourselves on these premises, our Study Group on “Psychoanalytic psychotherapy of the couple and attachment” considers the relation within the couple as an opportunity for the redefinition and restructuring of the identity of the Self (Ruszczynski 1993; Clulow, 2001; Lupinacci, Zavattini, 2002; Santona, Zavattini, 2005; Velotti, Gigli, Zavattini, 2006; Orbach, 2007). In other words, the relation of the couple can be a “developmental chance” for revisioning the Internal Working Models or can negatively contribute to perpetuate the phenomena of discontinuity and dissociation of the self (the ‘alien self’), and the need to ‘externalize’ what had not been elaborated by individuals. Specifically we think that an attachment oriented psychoanalytic psychotherapy of the couple would be considered in regard to a relational conflict theory. This means that mental pain is accounted not as a consequence of failures to resolve conflicts about the satisfaction of instinctual drives, but as a consequence of conflicts connected to not-good enough attachments (Bleichmar, 2003; Schwartz, Pollard, 2004).
At the level of theory of technique, it is necessary not only to fully understand the role of the psychotherapist as a secure base – namely in his function of scaffolding and holding – but also to create, as suggested by Winnicott (1971), that secure-enough base which is strictly necessary to explore the bonds related to insecurity and to try to understand the Internal Working Models of relationships, regarding the present and the theory of the ourselves past and how the whole problem has built up within the current attachment relation with the partner. It is of the utmost importance to pay attention to the quality of the matching of the attachment models of the two partners with regard to what has been defined as complex attachment (Fisher, Crandle, 1997), i.e. to the reciprocal strategies of affects regulation. Namely, it is required to understand which is the boundary between the organization of Self and that one of the encounter of two Self, i.e. the relationship between the individual scene (the repertory of the inner relations of Self and the Other (internal intersubjectivity) and the unconscious couple’s joint (shared intersubjectivity).
Further, the technique of the interpretation should attempt not only to understand the psychical organizations at the individual level, but it also should place the focus of its attention on the configuration of the interactive exchanges in the present field of the session (Baranger, Baranger, 1969; Ferro, 1996; Zavattini, 2001, 2006), where and when the couple and the therapist/s confront each other in a continuous process of scanning of the mental states (transference and countertransference, Norsa, Zavattini, 1997).
So inspiring our work to the latest contributions about intersubjectivity in the technique (Beebe, Lachmann, 2002), we feel important confer particular attention to the procedural aspects, i.e. work on the structure of the exchanges and sequences during the session. On the plan of the interpretation that implies that the therapist places himself either in the position of a proposer of the configurations of the means emerged during the session, and as a catalyst of the intersubjectivity field, intersubjectivity negotiation (Pizer, Pizer, 2005).
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