Couples Therapy and the Concept of Transference

Therapy isn’t just for one person, couples can also benefit from therapy.

What is Couples’ Therapy?

Object Relations Therapy (ORT) is an approach used in Couples’ Therapy. ORT is a type of therapy which focuses on the individual’s lacking in interpersonal functioning linked to difficulties in attachment and how this reflects in couples’ experiences of each other.

Common issues that couples face:
– Emotional expressiveness
– Communication problems
– Financial discord
– Sexual difficulties
– Domestic abuse/violence
– Trust issues associated with Jealousy and Infidelity
– Power imbalance in the relationship
– Division of labour (household duties)
– Children and Parenting styles
– Personality clashes
– Inability to meet each other’s expectations

Transference is a common occurrence in couples’ therapy, whereby the client projects feelings about their partner or about somebody significant, onto the therapist. This can evoke feelings the client has towards the therapist, which may not be directly about the therapist themselves.

Why does transference occur and why is this significant?

Transference occurs because certain feelings that are too painful to deal with are tucked away into the unconscious mind. With regards to couples, for example, the client can transfer feelings of mistrust towards the therapist if their partner has been consistently breaking their trust in the relationship. As a form of coping mechanism towards this issue of trust, the client keeps painful feelings deep in the unconscious mind and this can arise during the therapy session. It is the duty of the therapist to recognise these signs of transference early, and gradually let the client become aware of their own feelings and help them overcome such patterns. Transference is an important part of therapy as it brings forth hidden feelings and this awareness of such feelings enables the client to be able to recognise themselves and improve on interpersonal relationships, on top of ORT.