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Object Relations theory and Feminist therapy theory: A compatible blend

30 June 1987


This dissertation combines both a literature review and the beginning of a theoretical model. The literature review deals with representative works of four Object Relations theorists: Melanie Klein, Edith Jacobson, Margaret Mahler and Harry Guntrip. Also discussed are the representative works of four Feminist therapy theorists: Karen Horney, Nancy Chodorow, Carol Gilligan and Hannah Lerman. In addition to discussing some of the basic tenets of each of these theoretical orientations, a main focus is on how women as clients are conceptualized in each of these theories. One of the common ties woven through each person I s theory is that they a 11 use Freud I s original postulates as a departure point. Time is spent analyzing how each one successfully moves away from Freud I s ideas and concepts and develops a different picture of mental health and pathology. Next, the similarities and differences in each of the theories are discussed. It is shown that there are many similarities in the two theories. The model that is developed is a synthesis of both Object Realtions and Feminist therapy theories. There are four main aspects of this model. First is the recognition that the sociocultural milieu has a tremendous impact on the emotional and mental well being of the people in that culture. Second is the belief in the inherent value of both women and men and that psychologists and other mental health professionals need to be aware of the gender bias which exists within the various psychological theories and impacts how clients are treated. The third aspect of this model deals with the belief that early relationships in an infant's life have a lasting impact on 'their subsequent personality development. The fourth part of this model deals with power, both within the therapeutic relationship and out of it. This model espouses the belief that the therapeutic relationship needs to be an egalitarian one. There are three implications for therapeutic work drawn from this paper. First is the need to develop the research questions raised by this paper. Women professionals need to be involved in this research. A second implication is that gender bias still exists within the field of psychology. Finally there is an implication that all psychologists need to become active in the areas where pol icy is created. The role of professional psychologists is changing and can no longer afford to take an aloof attitude toward those who develop the policies which impact on how we practice our profession. This model will continue to be further refined and developed.


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