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Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 398–406 | Cite as

Relational Theory: A Refuge and Compass

  • Terri Rubinstein
Original Paper

Abstract

Relational theory offers a structure from which to understand and treat the interpersonal and intrapsychic legacy of severe childhood trauma. During the course of treatment, particularly with such traumatized patients, therapists are challenged to tolerate and make meaning of intense feelings in the transference-countertransference matrix. Relational theory’s ideas regarding adaptation to and perpetuation of the relational patterns of early life, dissociation of disavowed and intolerable self-states, and the inevitability of mutual enactments provide an organizing framework in which to weather and make bearable the unbearable. In addition, relational theory invites and supports the clinician in the vital task of meeting the patient’s vulnerability with his or her own authentic and vulnerable self. The following case material demonstrates the use of relational theory to find and to work at the intimate edge (Ehrenberg in Relational psychoanalysis: innovation and expansion, Analytic Press, Hillsdale, pp 3–28, 2005) where the impossible becomes possible.

Keywords

Relational Enactment Trauma Transference-countertransference Dissociation Self-disclosure 

Notes

Conflict of interest

The author declares that the author has no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

This article does not contain studies with human participants or animals performed by the author. The article does contain a clinical vignette and informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the treatment.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Sanville InstituteBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.The Psychotherapy InstituteBerkeleyUSA

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