Object Relations is a model of psychotherapy in which the therapist provides a corrective parental experience, nurturing your unfulfilled need to feel loved, appreciated and safe. The approach depends on the idea of the therapist as a blank screen, rigidly refraining from “contaminating” the therapeutic relationship with her personal thoughts and feelings. Great idea—if it were even remotely possible for two human beings to be in the same room without impacting each other. Believing that is like believing the Wizard is not behind the curtain.
It’s reminiscent of the conceit of medical doctors, screened behind their theories, charts and lab coats, calling you by your first name while you are expected to call them “Doctor.” In fact, research has proven that when doctors offer themselves as fellow humans, the result is greater compliance with protocols, and better health outcomes.
The one-on-one therapeutic relationship can profoundly improve both awareness and relationship skills. However, far more rare is the opportunity to experience a healthy family dynamic, which only the chorus of a safe group can provide.
Depression and anxiety are not just dysfunctional responses to our family. They are also normal responses to a dehumanizing society. Focusing on the culture’s pathology is an invitation to challenge and deconstruct our stories and separate ourselves from what happened to us. And when we see that others born into completely different circumstances can identify with our insecurities and feelings of shame, we realize we’re not alone—and that maybe, just maybe, you’re not defective.
People get better when their struggles are normalized rather than pathologized. One of my Antioch students, a veteran of the Iraq war, told me that his first month studying The Narrative Method had been more impactful than six months of therapy. “Hearing others share my fears made me see I’m not alone, not crazy. There is hope.”