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Coleman, L. (2013). Object Relations and Relationality in Couple Therapy: Exploring the Middle Ground, by James L. Poulton, Jason Aronson, 2012.. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 3(2):256-258.

(2013). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 3(2):256-258

Object Relations and Relationality in Couple Therapy: Exploring the Middle Ground, by James L. Poulton, Jason Aronson, 2012.

Review by:
Lin Coleman

The title of this book implies some going over the same ground for experienced couple therapists. As psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapists, do we not all use some object relations theory? And is not relationality the same thing as the interpersonal? Well, yes and no. The clue to the difference in this book is the subtitle Exploring the Middle Ground, and Poulton explores this difference very thoroughly. He believes that by using this middle ground, therapists can gain more tools with which to change the more intractable problems couples face. This book encourages us to think outside our respective boxes and offers another approach.

The beginning of the book provides a clear revision of the historical and international thinking behind the current theory and practice of individual and couple psychotherapy. James Poulton is an assistant professor of psychology and clinical instructor in psychiatry in the US, with a private practice for individuals and couples, and he is extremely well read. The bibliography is the same length as his (not short) chapters. He distils his knowledge clearly and succinctly, with obvious commitment to his subject, and his clinical material is enlightening and often inspiring.

Before elaborating on his concept of middle ground he gives us an overview of object relations theory, which he contrasts with relational theory, which has grown out of philosophical, sociological, and political, as well as psychoanalytic, thinking. The relational theoretician, he writes, tries to understand the aspects of interactive experience in which the unconscious mind of one partner not only affects and influences the mind of the other, but intertwines with it so that two minds together create a mutual experience that is more than the sum of the parts.

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