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Donovan, M. (2005). Bridging the Gap: Similarity and Difference between Psychoanalytic and Systemic Therapeutic Orientations. Brit. J. Psychother., 22(2):227-242.

(2005). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 22(2):227-242

Bridging the Gap: Similarity and Difference between Psychoanalytic and Systemic Therapeutic Orientations

Mary Donovan

In recent times much has been made of integrative tendencies and common ground between therapeutic orientations, previously locked into highly oppositional frames. This is evident in the rapprochement between psychoanalysis and cognitive-behavioural therapy in adult mental health. It is a trend that is also evident in the shifting relationship between systemic and psychoanalytic orientations. This paper begins with an overview of factors influencing the wider integrative ethos before considering the specific circumstance of the relationship between systemic family therapy and psychoanalysis. The paper considers both the past history of oppositionality between the two orientations as well as some current developments that might facilitate a more creative dialogue. Particular attention is paid to issues of similarity and difference between the therapeutic relationship in systemic family therapy and the psychoanalytic framework of the transference/countertransference. Implications for therapeutic technique are explored. The aim is not to minimize difference but to encourage cross-fertilization between these therapeutic orientations in the interest of patients/families who may benefit from an integrated response.

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