Counseling Psychoanalytic Family Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2951 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 12  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology

At age three the child should be at a minimum level of individuation and separation from the caregiver (Mahler, 1975). This is the state of object constancy: the formation of an internalized relatively stable sense of self and object, so that the child can bear the anxiety of separation. A decisive period here is the rapprochement phase where the infant is pulled between the need to stay close to the caretaker while being pushed to function autonomously. The failure to deal with the crises able can lead to an inability to establish a satisfactory distance in relationships.

The primary goal of psychodynamic family counseling is to move towards a more functional family unit relatively free from conflicts and inhibitions. The use of the therapeutic alliance, transference issues, empathy, reflection, and interpretation are all important in psychoanalytic counseling. Psychoanalytic family counselors are committed to the resolution of presenting issues, enhancing the self-esteem of the members, tolerance for differences in family members, helping to establish flexibility and adaptability of roles, and a balanced sharing of power with clear boundaries with an accent on individuation and maturity in the family members. The last aspect decreases the chance of projection on other members or responding to projections of others in a shared pathological manner (Scharff, 1995).

The goals of psychodynamic family counseling are very similar to those of Bowen family systems therapy (Bowen, 1966):

1. Members develop a differentiated and internally integrated sense of self (Meissner 1978).

2. Members resolve conflicts by positive means (Ackerman 1958).

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3. Transference projections among family members are resolved.

Research Paper on Counseling Psychoanalytic Family Counseling Psychoanalytic Assignment

For this writer the main surprise was the conclusion that different counseling paradigms psychotherapies are more similar than one believes. Waldron et al. (2004) developed an interesting instrument for measuring psychodynamic features applied in all psychotherapies, the Analytic Process Scales (APS), which has been used to measure the similarities between different schools of psychotherapy. There are five indentified therapist variables that are shared by psychotherapies that we can relate to three major paradigms of client centered therapy (CCT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and psychodynamic therapy (PDT):

1) Clarification is the extent to which attention is directed by the therapist to insufficiently noted surface features of client behavior and how these are psychologically linked within the individual. CCT, PDT, and CBT share this core feature; however, their theoretical differences place a different emphasis on how these are interpreted (cognition, conditions of worth, or conflict).

2) Interpretation refers to how the therapeutic intervention aims at transforming meaning by bringing events that are outside of one's awareness into full awareness. All of these techniques utilize this principle; however, the approach to change differs depending on the paradigm.

3) Addressing defenses refers to the defenses that are active during the session and the degree to which the client attempts to avoid objectionable impulses, emotions, or thoughts. Again, these schools will address defenses as they arise but in a different manner.

4) Addressing transference refers to the therapist's pointing out the client's reaction to the therapist in the therapeutic setting. All schools do this, but in a manner consistent with their paradigm.

5) Addressing inner conflicts refers to the degree to which the therapist focuses on the patient's conflicts in the session and in life. Again, all techniques do this, but the manner of approach to conflict is different depending on the paradigm.

Thus, different paradigms are alike in their general approach, but different in the specific technique/focus.

Integrating Faith and Counseling

As a Christian studying psychological principles I was confronted by scientific claims that conflicted with many of the Christian doctrines I had been taught. In the face of this confrontation I had several options: I could simply abandon my faith and accept premises of secular science and psychology, I could just ignore the contradictions, or I could have rejected psychology. However, none of these are very satisfying for a Christian wishing to be a counselor. The other option was that of integrating aspects of psychology that are harmonious with biblical truths and reject those which are not. Integration is not an unusual process for psychologists practicing therapy, in fact there is a whole literature on integrated psychotherapy that combines tenets of different psychological paradigms into a cohesive theory-driven approach (Arkowitz, 1992). This process is not an eclectic process where techniques are haphazardly combined from different paradigms, but where the psychologist uses theory to guide the integration.

Both the field of psychology and Christianity hold valid claims that are verifiable using the scientific method. Both also assume certain unprovable philosophical assumptions (such as the humanistic tenet that people are basically good). As the majority of philosophical assumptions are beyond the scope of scientific inquiry, the reason to prefer one assumption over another is based on personal experience, logic, and an arbitrary personal preference. Thus, I am justified in preferring my philosophical assumptions over others. This is the source of the conflict between psychology and Christianity.

I prefer the approach of Jones and Butman (1991) who suggest three possible approaches to integrating Christianity and psychology: applying religious moral principles to the practice of science (ethical integration), viewing scientific and religious explanations of reality as independent (perspectival integration), or incorporating Christian beliefs as the control mechanism that shape one's perceptions of the methods and theories in social science (Christianizer of science integration). Jones and Butman prefer the third approach by using three methods of integration:

1. Pragmatic eclecticism is essentially an empirically-based intervention approach where the counselor would use outcome research as a guide to using methods that are shown to be most effective to address the issues manifested by clients.

2. Transtheoretical eclecticism recognizes that supporters of psychotherapy and counseling outcome research are possibly wrong about how certain approaches work. The most positive approach and the best way to advance knowledge concerning the effectiveness of counseling is by way of empirical and phenomenological investigations that address what differentiates effective counselors form counselors who are less effective in helping their clients reach their goals despite the theories that they believe distinguish them from others.

3. Theoretical integration is an attempt to rise above the limitations of using a single theoretical orientation as the foundation by reaching out beyond that orientation to other models and paradigms that can help address the issues in question.

By integrating Christianity with counseling I have come to several conclusions. First, there is a God that transcends meanings given to events by humans. Second, people have purpose, meaning, and value because we were created by a sovereign omniscient God who planned it all. Third, people have a spiritual and immaterial soul and as creations of God people possess the capacity for morality and rationality. Fourth, people have a good degree of choice and thus are responsible for their actions. Fifth, people by their nature are social creatures. Sixth, people have an intrinsic nature that moves them to violate the laws of God and to attempt to avoid responsibility for their actions via a number of defense mechanisms. In understanding the human condition in this manner I can approach my duties as a counselor by integrating my faith and psychological principles.


Ackerman, N.W. (1958). The psychodynamics of family life: Diagnosis and treatment of family relationships. New York: Basic Books.

Ackerman, N.W. (1962). Family psychotherapy and psychoanalysis: the implications of difference. Family Processes, 1, 30-43.

Arkowitz, H. (1992). Integrative theories of therapy. In D.K. Freedheim, H.J. Freudenberger, J.W. Kessler, S.B. Messer, D.R. Peterson, H.H. Strupp, & E.L. Wachtel (Eds.), History of psychotherapy: A century of change (pp. 261-304). Washington, DC: APA Press.

Bowen, M. (1966). The use of family theory in clinical practice. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 7,


Dicks, H. (1967). Marital tensions: Clinical studies towards a psychological theory of interaction. New York: Basic Books.

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Hall, C.S., Lindzey, G., & Campbell, J.B. (1998). Theories of personality. New York:

John Wiley.

Jones, S.L. & Butman, R.E. (1991). Modern psychotherapies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Mahler, M.S. (1975). On the current status of the infantile neurosis. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 23, 327-333.

Meissner W. (1978). The conceptualization of marriage and family dynamics from a psychoanalytic perspective. In T. Paolino & B. McCrady (Eds.), Marriage and marital therapy (pp. 34-67). New York: Brunner/Mazel.

Scharff, J. (1995). Psychoanalytic marital therapy. In J.N. Gurman (Ed.), Clinical handbook of couple therapy (pp 164 -- 193). New York: Guilford.

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APA Style

Counseling Psychoanalytic Family.  (2012, August 23).  Retrieved July 6, 2020, from

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"Counseling Psychoanalytic Family."  August 23, 2012.  Accessed July 6, 2020.