Advertisement

Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 161–168 | Cite as

Splitting as a Focus of Couples Treatment

  • J. P. Siegel
Original Paper

Abstract

Current developments in neurophysiology and trauma have re-awakened interest in the reciprocal influences of the interpersonal and intrapsychic domains. Although object relations theory continues to guide clinical practice, its integration into models of best practice has been limited by a lack of empirical study. This paper examines the defense mechanism of splitting in couples from the theoretical, empirical and clinical perspectives in ways that allow for integration with research findings. It is proposed that splitting operates on a continuum from a specific response that is stimulated by anxiety, to a fundamental style of relating that is marked by emotional reactivity, impaired problem solving and relationship instability. Specific treatment interventions that integrate object relations and cognitive perspectives are summarized.

Keywords

Couples treatment Dyadic splitting Splitting Object relations schemas 

References

  1. Alexander, R., & Van der Heide, N. P. (1997). Rage and aggression in couples therapy: An intersubjective approach. In M. F. Solomon & J. P. Siegel (Eds.), Countertransference in couples therapy (pp. 238–251). New York: W. W Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  2. Akhtar, S., & Byrne, J. P. (1983). The concept of splitting and its clinical relevance. American Journal of Psychiatry, 140(8), 1013–1016.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Benjamin, L. S., & Friedrich, F. L. (1991). Contributions of structural analysis of social behavior (SASB) to the bridge between cognitive science and a science of object relations. In M. J. Horowitz (Ed.), Person, schemas and maladaptive interpersonal patterns (pp. 379–412). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Briere, J., & Rickards, S. (2007). Self-awareness, affect regulation, and relatedness: Differential sequels of childhood versus adult victimization experiences. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 19(6), 497–503.Google Scholar
  5. Briere, J., & Runtz, M. (2002). The inventory of altered self-capacities (IASC): A standardized measure of identity, affect regulation, and relationship disturbance. Assessment, 9(3), 230–239.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Briere, J., & Spinazzola, J. (2005). Phenomenology and psychological assessment of complex posttraumatic states. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18(5), 401–412.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Buehlman, K. T., Gottman, J. M., & Katz, L. F. (1992). How a couple views their past predicts their future: Predicting divorce from an oral history interview. Journal of Family Psychology, 5(3), 295–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burnett, G., Jones, R. A., Bliwise, N. G., & Ross, L. T. (2006). Family unpredictability, parental alcoholism and the development of parentification. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 34(3), 181–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Castonguay, L. G., & Beutler, L. E. (2005). Principles of therapeutic change that work. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Davies, J., & Frawley, M. (1994). Treating the adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse: A psychoanalytic perspective. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  11. De Shazer, S. (1985). Keys to Solution in brief therapy. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  12. De Zulueta, F. (2006). The treatment of psychological trauma from the perspective of attachment research. Journal of Family Therapy, 28(4), 334–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fischer, K. W., & Ayouh, C. (1994). Affective splitting and dissociation in normal and maltreated children: Developmental pathways for self in relationship. In C. Letti & Toth (Eds.), Rochester symposium on developmental psychopathology disorders and dysfunctions of the self, 5, 149–221.Google Scholar
  14. Fonagy, P., & Target, M. (1997). Attachment and reflective function: Their role in self organization. Development and Psychopathology, 9(4), 679–700.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Forero, R. (2005). Why do they return? Psychological determinants of the battered woman’s decision to return to the batterer. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. New York University School of Social Work.Google Scholar
  16. Ganellen, R. J. (2007). Assessing normal and abnormal personality functioning: Strengths and weaknesses of self-report, observer, and performance-based methods. Journal of Personality Assessment, 89(1), 30–40.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Gerson, M. J. (1984). Splitting: The development of a measure. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1, 157–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goodman, L. A., Koss, M. P., Fitzgerald, L. D., Russo, N. F., & Ketia, G. P. (1993). Male violence against women: Current research and future directions. American Psychologist, 48, 1054–1058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gottman, J. M. (1994). What predicts divorce: The relationship between marital processes and marital outcomes. Hillsdale, NJ: Laurence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  20. Gottman, J. M., & Gottman, J. S. (1999). The Marriage Survival Kit: A research-based marital therapy. In R. Berger & M. T. Hannah (Eds.), Preventive approaches to couples therapy (pp. 304–330). Philadelphia, PA: Bruner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  21. Gunderson, J. G., Ronningstam, E., & Bodkin A. (1990). The diagnostic interview for narcissistic patients. Archives of General Psychiatry, 47(7), 676–680.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Gramzow, R., & Tagney, J. P. (1992). Proneness to shame and the narcissistic personality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18(3), 369–376.Google Scholar
  23. Hooper, L. (2007). The application of attachment theory and family systems theory to the phenomena of parentification. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 15(3), 217–223.Google Scholar
  24. Horowitz, M. J. (1977). Cognitive and interactive aspects of splitting. American Journal of Psychiatry, 134(5), 549–553.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Huprich S. K., & Bornstein, R. F. (2007). An overview of issues related to categorical and dimensional models of personality disorder assessment. Journal of Personality Assessment, 89(1), 3–15.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Huprich, S. K., & Greenberg, R. P. (2003). Advances in the assessment of object relations in the 1900s. Clinical Psychology Review, 23(5), 665–698.Google Scholar
  27. Jacobson, E. (1964). The self and the object world. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  28. Kernberg, O. F. (1975). Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. New York: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  29. Kernberg, O. F. (1986a). Borderline personality organization. In M. H. Stone (Ed.), Essential papers on borderline disorders (pp. 279–319). New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Kernberg, O. F. (1986b). Factors in the psychoanalytic treatment of narcissistic personalities. In A. P. Morrison (Ed.), Essential papers on narcissism (pp. 213–244). New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Kilgore, L. C. (1988). Effects of early childhood sexual abuse on self and ego development. Social Casework, 69, 224–230.Google Scholar
  32. Krystal, H., & Krystal, J. H. (1988). Integration and self healing. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press.Google Scholar
  33. Lachtar, J. (1992). The narcissistic-borderline couple: A psychoanalytic perspective on marital treatment. Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  34. Lax, R. F., Bach, S., & Burland, J. A. (Eds.). (1986). Self and object constancy. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  35. Lerner, P. M., & Lerner, H. D. (2007). A psychoanalytic clinician looks at diagnostic labels and diagnostic classification systems. Journal of Personality Assessment, 89(1), 70–81.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Lerner, H. D., & St. Peter, S. (1984). Patterns of object relations in neurotic, borderline and schizophrenic patients. Psychiatry, 47(1), 77–92.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Lewis, M. D., & Stiegen, J. (2004). Emotion regulation in the brain: conceptual issues and directions for developmental research. Child Development, 75(2), 371–376.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Livingston, M. S. (1995). A self psychologist in couplesland: Multisubjective approach to transference and countertransference-like phenomena in marital relationships. Family Process, 34(4), 427–439.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Logan, D. E., & Graham-Bermann, S. A. (1999). Emotion expression in children exposed to family violence. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 1(3), 39–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maltas, C. P. (1996). Reenactment and repair: couples therapy with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 3(6), 351–356.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Marziali, E. (1992). The etiology of borderline personality disorder: Developmental factors. In J. F. Clarkin, E. Marziali, & H. Munroe-Blum (Eds.), Borderline personality disorder: Clinical and empirical perspectives (pp. 27–44). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  42. McDevitt, J. B., & Mahler, M. S. (1986). Object constancy, individuality and internalization. In R. F. Lax, S. Bach, & J. A. Burland (Eds.), Self and object constancy (pp. 11–28). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  43. McNeal, C., & Amato, P. R. (1998). Parents' marital violence: Long-term consequences for children. Journal of Family Issues, 19(2), 123–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pynoos, R. S., Steinberg, A. M., & Goenjian, A. (1996). Traumatic stress in childhood, adolescence: Recent developments and current controversies. In B. A. van der Kolk, A. C. McFarlane, & L. Weisaeth (Eds.), Traumatic stress. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  45. Sandler, J., & Rosenblatt, B. (1962). The concept of the representational world. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 17, 129–162. International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  46. Scharff, D., & Scharff, J. (1987). Object relations family therapy. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  47. Scharff, D. E., & Scharff, J. S. (1991). Object relations couple therapy. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  48. Schore, A. N. (2002). Dysregulation of the right brain: A fundamental mechanism of traumatic attachment and the psychopathogenesis of posttraumatic stress disorder. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 36(1), 9–30.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schwoeri, L., & Schwoeri, F. (1981). Family therapy of borderline patients: Diagnostic and treatment issues. International Journal of Family Psychiatry, 2, 237–250.Google Scholar
  50. Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  51. Siegel, D. J. (1999a). The developing mind. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  52. Siegel, J. P. (1992). Repairing intimacy. Northvale, NJ: Aronson.Google Scholar
  53. Siegel, J. P. (1998). Defensive splitting in couples treatment. Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 7, 305–327.Google Scholar
  54. Siegel, J. P. (1999b). Destructive conflict in nonviolent couples: A treatment guide. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 1(3), 65–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Siegel, J. P. (2000). What children learn from their parents marriage. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  56. Siegel, J. P. (2006). Dyadic splitting in partner relational disorders. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(3), 418–422.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Siegel, J. P., & Geller, J. (2000). The re-enactment of abuse in the marital relationship: Theoretical and clinical considerations. Journal of Family Social Work, 4, 57–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Siegel, J. P., & Spellman, M. E. (2002). The dyadic splitting scale. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 30, 117–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Solomon, M. F., & Siegel, J. P. (1997). Countertransference in couples therapy. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  60. Strothman, L. J. (1985). Early developmental processes and adult intimate violence. In R. Langs (Ed.), Yearbook of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy (Vol. 1, pp.77–118). Emerson, New Jersey: New Concept Press.Google Scholar
  61. Terr, L. C. (1991). Childhood traumas: An outline and overview. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 10–20.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Thomas, P. M. (2005). Dissociation and internal models of protection: Psychotherapy and child abuse survivors. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice Training, 42(1), 20–36.Google Scholar
  63. van der Kolk, B. (1994). Childhood abuse and neglect and loss of self-regulation. Bulletin of Menninger Clinic, 58, 145–168.Google Scholar
  64. van der Kolk, B. A. (1996). The body keeps the score: Approaches to the psychobiology of posttraumatic stress disorder. In B. A. van der Kolk, A. C. McFarlane, & L. Weisaeth (Eds.), Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body and society (pp. 214–241). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  65. Volkan, V. (1976). Primitive internalized object relations. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  66. Wells, M., & Jones, R. (1998). Relationship among childhood parentification, splitting, and dissociation: Preliminary findings. American Journal of Family Therapy, 26(4), 331–340.Google Scholar
  67. White, M. (1989). The externalizing of the problem and the re-authoring of lives and relationships. In M. White (Ed.), Selected papers. Adelaide Australia, Dulwich: Centre Publications.Google Scholar
  68. Zinner, J., & Shapiro, R. (1972). Splitting in families of borderline adolescents. In J. Mack (Ed.), Borderline states in psychiatry (pp. 103–122). New York: Grune and Stratton.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations