Splitting as a focus of couples treatment

J. P. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Current developments in neurophysiology and trauma have re-awakened interest in the reciprocal influences of the interpersonal and intrapsychic domains. Although object relations theory continues to guide clinical practice, its integration into models of best practice has been limited by a lack of empirical study. This paper examines the defense mechanism of splitting in couples from the theoretical, empirical and clinical perspectives in ways that allow for integration with research findings. It is proposed that splitting operates on a continuum from a specific response that is stimulated by anxiety, to a fundamental style of relating that is marked by emotional reactivity, impaired problem solving and relationship instability. Specific treatment interventions that integrate object relations and cognitive perspectives are summarized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-168
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Contemporary Psychotherapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Couples treatment
  • Dyadic splitting
  • Object relations schemas
  • Splitting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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