Psychoanalytic Model Object Relations Research Paper

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Psychoanalytic Model (Object Relations)

In this paper, the object relations psychoanalytic model will be employed for solving a family issue; the family in question is taken from movie. The paper will further delineate key object relations concepts, the theory's assumptions, and its application to the aforementioned movie.

The chosen model

The object relations concept is a variant of the psychoanalytic theory, which deviates from the idea held by Sigmund Freud that mankind is driven by acts of aggression and that of sexual drives. Instead, psychoanalytic theory proposes the notion that man is primarily driven by a need to forge relationships with others (i.e. contact). Object relations therapists aim to aid clients in uncovering early mental pictures that can further any current problems in their associations with other people, and adapt them to improve interpersonal performance.

Basic Concepts in Object Relations

The word 'object' in the object relations concept does not denote inanimate things but rather, it refers to significant individuals with whom one relates closely, often one's father, mother, or a primary caregiver. This term is also sometimes employed in referring to some part of an individual (e.g., the mental depictions of the important people in our life, the mother's breast, etc.). Object relations theoreticians emphasize the significance of early familial interactions, especially the mother-baby bond, in the development of personality. Infants are believed to form mental images of self, relative to other people. These internal pictures greatly influence their interpersonal associations later on in life. As relationships lies at the heart of this theory, the bond between client and therapist is crucial to the theory's success.

The object relations concept is derived from the psychoanalytic instinct model. An instinct's "object" denotes the agent using which one achieves one's instinctual aim. In addition, normally, this agent is perceived to be another individual. It is widely accepted that the mother is a baby's first object. Object relations originate in life's first year (infancy), and nearly all psychoanalysts consider the initial mother-baby relationship as having a fundamentally oral nature. However, the main theoretical divide is between psychoanalysts who maintain that, at the very least, archetypal object relations will exist right from the start and others who believe "real" object relations emerge from and replace the baby's initial dependency bond with its mother.

The Internal Object

The focus of object relations therapy and its theoretical model is 'internal objects'. Internal objects denote aspects of the psychic framework formed from an individual's experiences with key caregivers in the early phase of their life. These reproduce themselves in the individual's personality by means of internalization; thereafter, the individual's personality will bear vestiges of those initial relationships. Internal object can neither be considered as memories nor as representations. Rather, they constitute a key element of the individual self's being. They manifest themselves in our interactions with, and choice of, other individuals (external objects) currently in our lives. Further, they can change through associations with current external objects (for instance, the psychotherapist).

External objects represent actual places, people, or things with which an individual has invested emotional energy.

The Self

Internal objects constitute only one of the components of self. the self is made up of:

(1) internal objects;

(2) the traditional concept of 'ego' -- the executive mechanism responsible for modulating self-control by means of its control over sphincters, affect states, and motility, which mediates a person's relationships with the external world; and (3) components and objects of the aforementioned 'ego' that correspond to feelings (affects) matching a child's object relationship experiences.

Consequently, the 'self' denotes a mix of internal objects and ego in a dynamic and distinctive relationship comprising of character. The individual's 'personal identity' is formed, which endures and is consistent as he/she ages.

The Self in Relation with Others

The comprehensive technical phrase 'Object Relations' covers interpersonal and intra-psychic dimensions. It represents the scheme of interrelationships and interactions between different facets of self that will, then be, expressed within the field of existing relationships with others. Components of self, including internal objects, correspond to outer objects such that, in all relationships, personalities will mutually influence one another. In other words, internal psychic frameworks and external relationships constantly interact with one another (IPI, 2016).

Self: This is a person's internal image, or the unconscious and conscious mental images of oneself.

Self-object: This represents the loss of margins, by which what is object and self-get blurred; that is, the division between external objects and self becomes hazy (Gestalt Therapy terms this condition as "confluence." ")

Self-representation: An individual's internal image of self as experienced relative to other significant individuals.

Whole object: This denotes another individual recognized as possessing hopes, needs, rights, feelings, insecurities, strengths, and weaknesses, akin to one's own.

Part object: This represents an object (e.g. breast or hand) that forms part of an individual. The other parts will not be considered a "whole object."

Object constancy: This implies maintenance of a long-term association with a certain object, or the rejection of any alternative for that object. For instance, a baby's refusal to be cared by anyone other than his/her own mother. Object constancy has been defined by Mahler as: 1) A capacity to center one's feelings on a particular object; 2) A capacity of recognizing and tolerating both hostile and loving feelings towards the very same object; and 3) A capacity to attach value to a given object for qualities other than the satisfaction of basic needs (Daniel, 2007).


This denotes the way an individual possesses or has a given object. Therefore, object representation implies an object's mental representation.

Splitting: This takes place when an individual (particularly a child) is unable to retain two conflicting feelings or thoughts, at once, in his/her mind, and thus, keeps them apart and concentrates on only one feeling/thought.

Self-psychology: In this context, the key question is the kind and nature of the self's emotional investment. Narcissism has a major role to play in the self-psychology philosophy. The implication is that an individual regards objects as part of himself or herself, or as objects that carry out a critical function for oneself. This sort of a distorted connection necessitates a different type of treatment as compared to neurotics.

In nutshell, object-relations theory represents a means to conceptualize interpersonal relations as well as extend psychoanalytic thought to the relational domain. However, its 'vocabulary' appears quite peculiar to individuals unacquainted with the theory. Object-relations theory seeks the source of our way to relate to other individuals at a developmental stage earlier than Freud's "genital stage" in his psychosexual theory (Daniel, 2007).

Role of therapist

Psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors may earn their certificate in the area of object relations psychotherapy from any one of the many training institutions found across the nation. For instance, the 'International Institute of Object Relations Theory' (now renamed as the IPI (International Psychotherapy Institute)), offers an object relations certificate program of two years for professional workers in the area of mental healthcare. Ottawa's Object Relations Therapy Institute also certifies Object Relations psychotherapists, while in the 'Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis', one can enroll in an introductory certificate course (duration: 1 year) in the theory and practical technique of object relations, in addition to an advanced-level program of two years (Good therapy, 2016).

The therapist's relationship with the family is dependent on the former providing an ideal psychological space as well as holding environment for families to display their recurring defensive patterns, that allow them to deal with underlying anxieties. The way families require therapists to connect with them so as to deflect a less desirable appearance that, at the subsequent level, shields them from an even more calamitous relationship has been described by therapists. "Because clause" is the name given to such an interpretation (Ezriel, 1952). A family seeking counsel reacts to therapists in their service-provider role, just like a mother, whose role is literally holding her baby in her arms and providing comfort (Scharff & Scharff, 1987).

Therapists cultivate a space wherein families can naturally spend time together and perform typical family tasks. Based on prior experience with families they have been raised in, a family will bring to therapy expectations of whether or how therapy will aid them.

Goals of Object Relations Therapy

The focus of object relations psychotherapy is aiding clients in identifying and dealing with shortfalls in interpersonal functioning, as well as exploring ways to improve relationships. Therapists can assist clients in therapy in understanding how object relations of childhood influence present relationships, emotions, and motivations, whilst also being a factor in any current problems they encounter (Good therapy, 2016).

Limitations of Object Relations Therapy

The pioneer therapists in the field of object relations were critiqued for their underestimation of the biological base of conditions like learning difficulties, autism, and some types of psychosis. A number of experts dispute Object Relations Therapy's importance in the treatment of the aforementioned conditions. Contemporary object relation proponents normally understand the fact that therapy does not suffice by itself in treating…

Sources Used in Documents:


Balk, D. (1996). Models for understanding adolescent coping with bereavement. Death Studies, 20: 367-387.

___. (1990). The self-concepts of bereaved adolescents: Sibling death and its aftermath. Journal of Adolescent Research, 5(1): 112-132.

Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. New York: Basic Books.

Daniel, V. (2007, October). Object Relations Theory. Retrieved from Sonoma State University:

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