1st Edition

Animals as the Third in Relational Psychotherapy Exploring Theory, Frame and Practice

Edited By Jo Silbert, Jo Frasca Copyright 2021
    198 Pages
    by Routledge

    198 Pages
    by Routledge

    Animals as the Third in Relational Psychotherapy: Exploring Theory, Frame and Practice elegantly and skilfully weaves together relevant literature, clinical reflections, compelling case material and contemporary psychoanalytic theory to demonstrate how the presence of an animal in the treatment arena can eventually bring about relational, interpersonal and intrapsychic change. 

    Contemporary relational psychoanalytic literature has been virtually silent about our relationship with animals, a feature seemingly intrinsic to our relational worlds. This book seeks to remediate this void by giving voice to the practice and principles of working relationally in the presence of an animal. The text accentuates recurrent themes: animals are seen by human beings as significant subjective others and are treated as legitimate partners for relational and interpersonal processes, attachment figures and transferential objects; animals in the psychotherapy environment can play the role as a ‘bridge’ from the unconscious to the conscious, from the dissociated to the experienced, from the intrapsychic to the interpersonal; as the third in the treatment arena, the animal helps to reveal the field, bringing conflicts to life and making them available for analysis in the clinical setting.

    In seeking to authorise the incorporation of animals into the practice of relational psychotherapy the text applies conventional concepts to novel contexts; it extends psychoanalytic and relational principles to create a theoretical framework within which to consider the therapeutic effects of working in the triadic interactions of therapist, client and animal and thus also begins to evolve a new version of relational psychoanalytic practice. The authors value the human-animal experience in treatment and repeatedly show how the application of a relational psychoanalytic lens to the patient-therapist-animal triad can enhance the therapeutic process in ways that encourage progressive communication, understanding of the patient and the relaxing of defences, leading to the symbolising of relational capacity, therapeutic breakthrough and intrapsychic change.

    1. Ratman to Relationality: An introduction. Jo Silbert 2. Exploration of animal-human relationships in psychoanalytic psychotherapy: Finding pathways to bridge remnant, disowned or as yet undeveloped parts of self Joanne Emmens 3. Relational creatures: The selfobject functions of dogs in psychoanalytic theory and practice Virginia Rachmani 4. A Dog in The Room: Interspecies Intersubjectivity in Relational Psychotherapy Sean Meggeson 5. Someone to Run With: Towards a Relational Neuroscientific Approach to Dog Assisted Child Psychotherapy. Dor Roitman 6. A journey inside Noah's Ark: A Group Analytic theory of child psychotherapy in a therapy zoo Dor Roitman 7. Unexpected Objects in the Group: the Foulksian Group-Analytic Boundary David Vincent 8. Trauma Inevitably Equates to Baggage Jo Frasca 9. Sister Moon: Close Encounters with a Third Gaiana Germani 10. Frame Breakage to the Rescue Jo Frasca 11. A Cat in in the Clinical Hour Gretchen Heyer 12. Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters Beth Feldman 13. The Secret of Grief Jo Frasca 14. The Conduit to Fear and Anger and the Story Jo Frasca 15. Together, we can find your voice. Love, Phoebe Lynn Higgins 16. Countertransferential? Counter-therapeutic? Counter-intuitive? Some concluding thoughts Jo Silbert and Jo Frasca


    Jo Silbert has worked in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia as a social worker, counsellor, psychotherapist and trainer in the educational, public, private and NGO sectors. She is interested in interpersonal neurobiology, mindfulness and in issues of social justice. Jo is currently involved in editing and writing.

    Jo Frasca is a psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney, Australia, working with adults, adolescents and couples. She works within the psychoanalytic relational frame and is interested in public education on the differing professional services offered for emotional and mental health. This is Jo’s second book and she is currently working on a third. 


    Animals as the Third in Relational Psychotherapy is a fascinating, well-researched book, with many beautiful clinical stories, proposing that an animal presence offers unique therapeutic opportunities, including the possibility of affection without ambivalence, selfobject functions, a transitional space, and a meeting of affects. I highly recommend this book-Beatrice Beebe, PhD, Clinical Prof., Columbia Univ. Medical Centre

    This courageous, touching text extends considerations of the therapeutic frame and relationship beyond the dyad and takes it to a new and innovative level which sanctions the inclusion of animals within the therapeutic space. By thoughtfully integrating their clinical reflections of the animal presence in the room with insightful contemporary Relational thinking and practice, the authors move us readers from old sentimental narratives regarding animals to a new, more substantial theoretical position. The text thus highlights how psychotherapists can represent themselves in broader, transparent and authentic ways while adding to the potency and breadth in our professional work. This is an important contribution to our field as well as being a wonderful informative read-Elana Leigh, Relational Transactional Analyst, Supervisor and Trainer

    Thomas Ogden refers to a third subjectivity unconsciously co-created by the therapist and client, "which seems to take a life of its own in the interpersonal field between them", which is where therapy takes place. The presence of an animal in the therapy setting, adding a third participant into the therapeutic setting, expands this interpersonal field and therefore provides further opportunities for deep relational work. The book Animals as the third in relational psychotherapy: Exploring theory, frame and practice beautifully analyses the contribution of animals to the patient, the therapist, and the psychotherapy process-Nancy Parish-Plass, Chairperson, Israeli Association of Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy