Object Relations Therapy

Object Relations Therapy stems from Object Relations Theory, a psychological theory defined by several psychologists and psychoanalysts. Object Relations Theory states that as infants, we learn about our worlds through interacting with various “objects,” which can be other people or parts of other people. What we learn about at this age informs how we connect with others as adults.

What is Object Relations Therapy?

The aim of Object Relations Therapy is to better understand the way that you engage with the world through an understanding of your object relations. This means taking a look at how you were raised, who raised you, and what you learned from your caretakers. Object Relations Theory posits that infants’ interactions with the objects (which can be people) in their lives informs their psyches and impacts their mental health later in life. This includes the development of a representation of what’s “good” and what’s “bad,” also known as splitting.

By gaining an understanding of how your psyche functions, you may decrease unhealthy, reactive behaviors. This is especially helpful in situations where there is relationship conflict.

What happens in an Object Relations Therapy session?

Therapists who practice Object Relations Therapy may take a psychoanalytic approach to working with clients. They’ll establish a strong working relationship with each client, one that is cognizant of the therapeutic alliance and calls attention to any transference between client and therapist. The therapist may ask the client about their initial reactions to the contents of their conversation, even reactions that the client has about the therapist.

Clients in Object Relations Therapy may explore the symbolisms that appear in their lives, especially those that have deeper meaning within their psyches. With the help of the therapist, they’ll interpret these symbolisms as well as their thoughts and feelings to learn more about their inner worlds. When there appears to be a connection between symbols, experiences, or relationships, the therapist may encourage the client to examine the larger meaning and develop healthier interactions.

Clients will also explore their assumptions of what’s “good” and what’s “bad.” They’ll apply their insight to their current lives and situations. Therapists generally facilitate this conversation by asking clients to look back on their early developmental years.

What can Object Relations Therapy help with?

Object Relations Therapy is helpful for many different mental health conditions and difficult situations. Clients who have personality disorders benefit from a deeper understanding of their personality development and the exploration of attachment to objects. Object Relations Therapy also helps clients who find it difficult to control their emotions, especially in relationship contexts. This includes clients who suffer from anxiety, depression, and OCD.

Because Object Relations Therapy requires an understanding of a complex, nuanced psychological theory, it’s important that your Object Relations Therapist have additional training or certification in Object Relations Therapy. With this experience, your Object Relations Therapist can more effectively help you apply this theory and learn how it impacts your life.