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From fixity to flow: The application of Mitchell's relational matrix to personality disorders

13 December 1999


This dissertation presents an application of Stephen A. Mitchelrs Relational Matrix to personality disorders. Mitchell's integrated relational model has important advantages over other models when applied to the conceptualization and treatment of personality disordered individuals. The use of the DSM Axis-II categorical, atheoretical approach contributes to personality diagnoses becoming reified and the atheoretical, descriptive approach does not provide a framework from which treatment can proceed. Two theoretical models applied to personality disorders are discussed, Millon's Evolutionary model and Benjamin's Interpersonal model. These two theoretical models serve as a basis from which to examine and apply Mitchell's relational matrix. A major criticism of these models is that they have difficulty explaining the variations and fluctuations seenin. a person's personality. A major advantage of Mitchell's model is that it can explain both the rigidity of personality and the variations and fluctuations. In addition, the application of Mitchell's relational matrix to personality disorders decreases the likelihood that a personality diagnosis will become reified. This reification can become evident both in the patients view and experience ofhimlherself and in the clinician's view of the patient. Mit chell's conceptualization of multiple selves and the use of a time metaphor to capture the variations of subjective experience, decreases the likelihood that a personality disorder diagnosis will become reified. Moreover, Mitchell's model provides a framework that encourages an expansion in perspective for the client in viewing his or her experience. This model also decreases the likelihood that the client only sees him or herself as "damaged." This framework also expands the therapist's view of the client in that it will alert the therapist to look for various ways the client experiences him or herself and interacts with others, beyond those that are characterized under the personality disorder umbrella. A case example is provided to illustrate the advantages of applying the relational matrix to conceptualization and treatment.


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