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Scharff, D.E. (2011). The Concept of the Link in Psychoanalytic Therapy. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 1(1):34-48.

(2011). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 1(1):34-48

The Concept of the Link in Psychoanalytic Therapy

David E. Scharff, M.D.

The concept of the link (el vinculo), first developed in the Spanish language literature by Pichon-Rivière more than fifty years ago, describes an interactive bond between people that includes interactive and unconscious elements. It is organised by the unconscious of each participant and, in turn, contributes to the unconscious organisation of the participants. The horizontal axis of links joins each person to the family and the social world. The vertical axis joins the person to previous generations, the next generation, and to history. Psychoanalytic treatment that takes the link into account can gain perspective on what joins each person to the generations, their families, communities, and the current social world. Pichon-Rivière saw, therefore, the importance of conducting psychotherapy not only with individuals, but also with families. This paper summarises ideas about the link, and compares it to ideas that have evolved separately in the English-language literature on object relations, and suggests that the link is a concept that can enrich our understanding of unconscious interaction and its effect on personality organisation in individual and in conjoint therapies. An example drawn from couple and family therapy illustrates ideas about links and their role in couple and family treatment.

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