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Investigating Links Between Intimacy and Violence in Intensive Psychotherapy

By Julie Trice


This research examines links between intimacy and violence within the transference relationship of a three year old boy during intensive psychotherapy. Psychoanalytic clinical findings are used to examine triggers to violence that initially appeared to link with moments of emotional warmth. The research uses a retrospective single case study design. The clinical data cover a period of transition in the child's life from being a 'looked after child' in foster care to being adopted. There was a history of early trauma from neglect and domestic abuse. Clinical process notes from supervised sessions were coded using an adapted grounded theory approach to reveal complex interlinking themes of intimacy, violence, Oedipal issues, control and difficulties regulating affect. Data in this study show how intimacy and violence are linked when there is evidence of a separation between the self and the object of intimacy. Explosive violence is triggered by the threat of loss of the object and the rage is, at times directed towards the object of intimacy. The findings of this study support concepts identified by earlier research in the field about the impact of a lack of maternal containment on innate violence, associated struggles with the Oedipal complex and the impact upon the capacity for symbol formation and thinking. However, the research findings challenge Glasser's (1979) theory of the 'core complex' that suggests that intimacy triggers violence. The results of this research indicate that it is the threat to the loss of intimacy as a result of separation from the object that is the trigger to violence. I believe this study may, in a modest way, further understanding about links between violence and intimacy in human relationships. This may help other child psychotherapists be alert to certain dangers when dealing with violence in the therapy room

Year: 2016
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