1st Edition

Couple Stories Application of Psychoanalytic Ideas in Thinking about Couple Interaction

Edited By Aleksandra Novakovic, Marguerite Reid Copyright 2018

    This book presents the application of key psychoanalytic concepts in thinking about the dynamics in the couple relationship. The contributions to the first part, mainly theory, discuss how different psychoanalytic ideas can be used in conceptualizing the nature of couple interaction. In the second part, on clinical practice, four couples tell their stories during their clinical sessions.

    Couple Stories conveys a lively experience of the couple's relationships as these occur in the consulting room and there are several commentaries for each 'couple story'. Commentaries explore the concepts described in the earlier part of the book, as well as clinical themes that couples bring to their sessions and the difficulties that they have encountered in the course of their relationship. Commentaries also provide an insight into how psychoanalytic couple therapists think about the clinical material, what they might select as a focus, and how they may go about developing a hypothesis about the nature of the relationship between the partners.

    Series Editor’s Preface David Scharff


    Part One 

    Chapter 1: "As my shriveled heart expanded": the Dynamics of Love, Hate, and Generosity in the Couple Aleksandra Novakovic

    Chapter 2: Oedipus Killed the Couple: Murder on the Thebes Highway Viveka Nyberg

    Chapter 3: Projective Identification Processes in the Couple Relationship Mary Morgan

    Chapter 4: On the Container-Contained Dynamics in the Couple Relationship David Hewison

    Part Two: Couple Stories and Clinical Commentaries

    Chapter 5: Marco and Rosa Couple Story Co-therapy, Containment, and the Couple A Clinical Commentary for Marco and Rosa  Christopher Clulow

    Finding a Story A Clinical Commentary for Marco and Rosa Joanna Rosenthall

    Projective Identification: Rivalry, Competition, and Exclusion A Clinical Commentary for Marco and Rosa Stanley Ruszczynski

    Narcissism and Loss of a Shared Ideal, Oedipal Exclusion, and Sibling Transference, Affecting a Couple State of Mind A Clinical Commentary for Marco and Rosa Jill Savege Scharff

    Chapter 6: Peter and Helen Couple Story

    Over the Hill to Oedipus  A Clinical Commentary for Peter and Helen Andrew Balfour

    Facing Death: Mourning and Reparation in a Late Middle-Aged Couple A Clinical Commentary for Peter and Helen Warren Colman

    Therapy: Anxieties, Defences, and the Couple A Clinical Commentary for Peter and Helen Susan Irving

    Couples Come in Twos and Threes: an Oedipal Perspective A clinical commentary for Peter and Helen Molly Ludlam

    Chapter 7: Daniel and Caroline Couple Story Containment and the Couple A Clinical Commentary for Daniel and Caroline Eve Ashley

    Oedipal Dynamics and the "White Heat" of the Session A Clinical Commentary for Daniel and Caroline Brett Kahr

    Shared Couple Defences against Anxiety A clinical commentary for Daniel and Caroline Monica Lanman

    Trauma, the First Born, and the Oedipal Situation A Clinical Commentary for Daniel and Caroline Sara Leon

    Chapter 8: Greg and Lottie Couple Story  Anxieties and Defences A Clinical Commentary for Greg and Lottie Susanna Abse

    "The Fog and the Shadows of the Past" A Clinical Commentary for Greg and Lottie Pierre Benghozi

    Oedipal Dynamics and the Couple A Clinical Commentary for Greg and Lottie Peter Griffiths

    Containment and the Couple A Clinical Commentary for Greg and Lottie Patsy Ryz



    Aleksandra Novakovic is a Psychoanalyst and Couple Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist. She was a Consultant Clinical Psychologist in the Adult Psychology Service, and Joint Head of the Inpatient & Community Psychology Service. She worked at Tavistock Relationships and taught and supervised Couple Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Training. She teaches for the British Psychoanalytic Association, and supervises on the Tavistock Foundation Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Course and on the IGA Diploma Course in Reflective Practice in Organizations. She co-edited with David Bell a book on psychotic processes (2013, Karnac), and edited Couple dynamics: psychoanalytic perspectives in work with the individual, the couple, and the group (2016, Karnac). 

    Marguerite Reid is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist who has more recently trained as a Couple Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist. She co-founded the Perinatal Service at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where she specialized in perinatal mental health problems. Her doctoral research was in the area of perinatal loss and the mother’s experience when she gives birth to the next baby. She is a Visiting Clinician at Tavistock Relationships. She has taught in the UK and abroad and co-founded the Infant Observation course in Izmir, Turkey. She has published in the area of perinatal mental health, and now works in private practice in London.

    'The present volume constitutes an overview of the advances in the conceptualization and treatment approaches to couples in conflict developed in the pioneering work of the Tavistock’s couple therapy program. It represents the cutting edge of contemporary psychoanalytic approaches to couple therapy, summarizes what has been achieved, and signals the road forward to an integrated therapeutic technique. Psychoanalytic investigation of couples’ chronic conflicts has revealed the unconscious motivation of such conflicts, their origins in unresolved, past traumatic experiences of both partners in their families of origin, in short, the unresolved oedipal conflicts of each partner that are now unconsciously replayed in the relationship with the new partner. The reactivation of their past conflicts in the present relationship with the partner evolves by means of primitive defense mechanisms, particularly projective identification, splitting, denial, idealization and omnipotent control. These mechanisms, applied to the study of couple conflicts, are masterfully described and their clinical relevance illustrated in the clinical material presented throughout the book. 

    Clinical commentaries by an impressive number of senior experts in the field illustrate how the interpretation of these primitive defensive operations in the transference and in a couple’s relations with external reality may be employed to shift the equilibrium of the couple to a healthier mental learning. Alternative ways of utilizing a psychoanalytic, particularly a Kleinian approach indicate that, while the dynamics can now be clearly identified, the optimal coordination of technical interventions is still an open issue. This book provides an enormous amount of information, and stimulates the reader to advance by himself in determining the best way to interview, and, implicitly to work further toward an implicated theory of technique. In short, Couple Stories is a fundamental overview of where we are, and a stimulating indicator of ways toward the future. Complex couple relationships are brought to the consulting rooms of all those practicing in the field of psychoanalysis. This book is highly recommended to all Psychoanalytic practitioners both individual and Couple.'-Otto. F. Kernberg, M.D., psychoanalyst and Professor of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College; Director, Personality Disorders Institute, The New York Presbyterian Hospital, Westchester Division

    'To the psychotherapist who is individually trained this volume provides, from a psychoanalytic perspective, an accessible yet informed introduction to working with couples. Written by leading thinkers and practitioners the theoretical chapters are comprehensive and provide a clear and accurate summary of complex ideas. The clinical vignettes and commentaries are engaging and often moving. Refreshingly free of pretentious jargon these clinical commentaries provide the reader with contrasting points of view. Thus, the reader is provided with multiple perspectives. This sensitive and thoughtful volume brings to life psychoanalytic ideas and their application to couple work and is an extremely useful single source which has real clinical relevance.'-Philip Roys, Psychoanalyst (IPA); former President of the British Psychoanalytic Association

    'Informed and guided by contemporary psychoanalytical variations on the basic themes of the Freudian psychoanalytical project, this impressively coherent text examines the unconscious dynamics of the "couple" in various modes of creative cohesion and of destructive incohesion. Their clients live in a state of murderous discontent with their partners, yet they are deeply involved and interdependent on them. The authors examine the pain and distress that infuse the relationships which couples seek to understand and ultimately to change in ways that offer greater satisfaction and happiness. This book will be useful for all of us: partners, students of partnership within the context of a variety of family forms, and clinicians alike.'-Earl Hopper, Ph.D., Former President of the International Association for Group Psychotherapy and Group Processes, former Chairman of the Association of Independent Psychoanalysts of the British Psychoanalytical Society, and Editor of the New International Library of Group Analysis.

    'Although there are many differences of psychoanalytic theory and varying approaches to analytic couple therapy, these four areas constitute a shared framework onto which we may then graft other contributions from disparate parts of our field. This first section of the book, therefore, constitutes a reliable foundation for relatively new students of our craft, and, at the same time, an opportunity for veteran colleagues to update and validate their foundational ideas.

    The second section of the book does something quite different. It offers a rich addition to the library of a basic resource in our field: the clinical case report. The four cases, given anonymously and generously by students and colleagues, each allows for the examination of basic ideas in our work as each is discussed by several eminent colleagues. Each discussion is unique, not only for the particular case, but within the collection as a whole. These discussions may be taken as examples of the many valuable perspectives that formal discussants bring, each illuminating from its own particular vector of examination. The discussions demonstrate the variety of ideas that seem to each discussant to be most relevant to the cases, even as these colleagues can be seen to share an overall basic orientation that views clinical experience through a psychoanalytic lens. For these reasons, the cases and their discussions are valuable both to those of us who have been doing this work for a long time, and to new students of couple psychotherapy. They let us compare the lens we use ourselves with those of valued colleagues, even while showing our younger colleagues how we, as a group, think about the large variety of issues relevant to our work with any given couple.

    This collection is not a monograph that tells us how to do our work; it does something more important. It leads the way in establishing our common foundation, and then in demonstrating a variety of ways these foundational ideas can be applied in order to serve our understanding and empower the therapy we offer. This book, a treasure trove of clinical wisdom, is a resource well-worth examining and re-examining as each of us strives to improve our own clinical thinking and our clinical work.'-from the Series Editors Preface by Dr.David Scharff, International Psychotherapy Institute, Chair of the International Psychoanalytic Association Committee on Family and Couple Psychoanalysis; Co-Editor, The Library of Couple and Family Psychoanalysis Series