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Date of Award


Degree Type

Dissertation (On-Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Committee Chair

Sandra Jenkins, PhD

Second Advisor

Elaine Breshgold, PsyD


The clinical literature on lesbian couples focuses on the tendency in these couples toward fusion. Fusion refers to the process by which individual identities become blurred and individual differences are suppressed to "keep the peace" in the relationship. This paper reviews the literature on lesbian fusion and provides an historical exploration of its current pathological interpretation. The relational pattern called fusion is then viewed through the various theoretical perspectives of ego psychology, psychoanalytic feminism, self-in-relation theory, and inter subjectivity. While fusion is considered pathological in the ego psychology literature, the views of self-in-relation theory hold that women have unique abilities relation ally and that this tendency for loose or fluid ego boundaries is valuable. While both theoretical perspectives shed some light on this issue, ego psychology and self-in-relation theory are inadequately prepared to provide useful treatment options. The theories of psychoanalytic feminism and intersubjectivity do, however, provide the necessary theoretical underpinning for a treatment approach based on the balance of autonomy and fusion or a rhythmic shifting between the two. A therapy approach based on the intersubjectivity theory is presented, with guidance for the clinician working with lesbian couples struggling with these issues.