Digging Deeper: An Object Relations Couple Therapy Update

Judith P. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past two decades, neurobiology research has added clarity to the process of emotional and behavioral change. In turn, this has led to endorsement of interventions that appear to be most helpful in individual and couple therapy. In addition to research on emotional dysregulation, contemporary studies have focused on the construction of meaning and its relevance to interpersonal relationships. According to Lisa Barrett, Richard Lane, and others, the brain references concepts to rapidly arrive at the most probable conclusions. Encoded experience and memory fragments guide this process and are vital in understanding partners' emotional responses. These findings support an object relations perspective that emphasizes the importance of past relational experiences that inform the present. This is particularly relevant in work with couples, as each individual's beliefs, expectations, and capacity for intimacy are invariably tied to earlier relationships. Research findings on memory reconstruction provide a basis for interventions that can add to the existing treatment approach, as it is suggested that working in a specific way with emotionally based memories has the potential to modify and reduce their predictive power and ability to unleash beliefs and behaviors that work against intimacy. The therapist who is informed by emerging neuroscience research can better uncover and actively work with memories that may be compromising a couple's relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-20
Number of pages11
JournalFamily Process
Issue number1
StateE-pub ahead of print - Nov 28 2019


  • Applied Neuroscience
  • Memory Reconsolidation
  • Object Relations Couple Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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