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Clulow, C. (2016). A Relational Psychoanalytic Approach to Couples Psychotherapy, by Philip A. Ringstrom, Routledge, 2014. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 6(1):115-117.

(2016). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 6(1):115-117

A Relational Psychoanalytic Approach to Couples Psychotherapy, by Philip A. Ringstrom, Routledge, 2014

Review by:
Christopher Clulow, Ph.D.

It was with a sense of heightened expectation that I approached this book. Relational psychoanalysis, although not a discrete discipline, draws on object relations, attachment, and neurobiological theories (among others) to inform clinical practice, all domains that have a particular contemporary significance for understanding the internal dynamics of couple relationships. Ringstrom, a senior training and supervising analyst in Los Angeles, with a background in systemic couple and family therapy, seemed well equipped to bring together the intrapsychic and interpersonal realities that form the focus of relational couple psychoanalysis. So buoyant was I about my hopes of the book, that I foisted it sight unseen on members of a reading seminar that I convene each year to consider what is new in the field.

The book weaves in and out of three interconnected themes that can be seen as therapeutic objectives: (a) the “actualization of self experience” (by which I take him to mean the capacity to develop as an individual through relationships with others—a more prosaic rendering of the Kohutian language used in the book); (b) mutual recognition (and validation) by each partner of the other's subjective experience; (c) taking account of the influence of the relationship “having a mind of its own” (for better or worse). These three theoretical themes are operationalised in six steps, or processes, which are circular rather than linear in their application.

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