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Horwitz, N.M. (1994). A Horneyan Analytic Perspective on Couple Therapy: A Case Study. Am. J. Psychoanal., 54(3):203-218.

(1994). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 54(3):203-218

A Horneyan Analytic Perspective on Couple Therapy: A Case Study

Nathan M. Horwitz, CSW

Although many analysts have long recognized the usefulness of Horney theory in understanding the dynamics in marriage, there have been, to date, no extended case presentations employing a Horneyan analytic perspective in the treatment of a marital pair (Horney, 1950; Symonds, 1970; Becker, Willig, et al., 1976; Becker, 1978; Miller, 1983; Rubin, 1983; Symonds, 1978; Symonds and Symonds, 1985; Winarick, 1985). A Horneyan perspective, with its elucidation of character structure, pride systems, and alienated aspects of self, helps in understanding the disturbed, inflexible roles and communication observed in marital pairs. Furthermore, a Horneyan perspective shows how mutual and repetitive attacks on the idealized image of each by the other, associated with their respective externalizations, lead to constant strife, tension, and conflict within the self and between the spouses. What follows is a study, diagnosis, and description of treatment of a marital couple incorporating Horney theory as a basis for understanding.

This case illustrates fundamental features of Horney theory as revealed in the patterns embedded in this marital relationship. While the Horneyan concept of character structure is founded on understanding individuals through their relationships, in couple therapy, the character structure of each individual can be further defined and understood in the expanded context of a specific other, the spouse, as background. As each lives out his and her pride positions, alienated aspects of self are discovered in omnipresent externalization and counterexternalization. Frequent attacks on the idealized image of each lead to chronic feelings of anger, vindictiveness, and hopelessness as described originally by Horney (1945, 1950) and more recently by Rubin (1983) and Symonds and Symonds (1985).


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