Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Projective Identification in Psychoanalytic Couple and Family Therapy

  • Arthur C. NielsenEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_18

Name of Concept

Projective Identification in Couple Therapy


Projective identification (PI) offers a powerful lens through which to view chronic marital conflict and unhappiness from a psychoanalytic perspective. Although PI was previously considered solely a feature of serious personality disorders, it is now recognized to be manifest in healthier people, including distressed couples.

PI is a complex concept that originated in the work of Melanie Klein (1946), whose early ideas have been refined as applied to couples by (in chronological order) Dicks (1967), Willi (1984), Wachtel and Wachtel (1986), Scarf (1987), Slipp (1988), Zinner (1989), Catherall (1992), Siegel (1992, 2010), Berkowitz (1999), Middelberg (2001), Donovan (2003), Stern (2006), Lansky (2007), Gurman (2008), and Ringstrom (2014).

PI is a form of interpersonal defensein which people recruit others to help them tolerate their own painful intrapsychic states of mind. This contrasts with purely intrapsychic...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  3. 3.The Chicago Institute for PsychoanalysisChicagoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Molly Gasbarrini
    • 1
  1. 1.California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International UniversityLos AngelesUSA