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Object Relations Theory

Object Relations Theory

Object Relations is an insight-oriented theory of personality development based on the quality of the relationship between the infant/child and the primary caretaker — the “object” in the theory. The theory holds that the primary needs of human beings are safe attachment and stable, dependable relationships.

How a child experiences his caretaker (i.e., loving, critical, warm, aloof, accepting, rejecting, etc.) and how consistently the caretaker meets the child’s needs (i.e., the child sees the parent as dependable, unreliable, predictable, erratic, present, abandoning, etc.) become internalized inside the child.  This inner model of relationships organizes the child’s experience of people and his/her relationships throughout life.

The job of the object relations therapist is to help the client gain insight into their organizing beliefs, how those beliefs shape all of their relationships, and how those beliefs can be changed.  Another crucial role of the therapist is to become the constant object for the client, meeting those primary needs for safe attachment and dependability, thereby allowing the client to begin to internalize a different, healthier, model of relationships.