Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Projective Identification in Psychoanalytic Couple and Family Therapy

  • Arthur C. NielsenEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_18-1

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 International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

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

Section editors and affiliations

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