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Introduction to the Object Relations Clinical Theory and Its Clinical Experiential Applications

12oct8:40 pmIntroduction to the Object Relations Clinical Theory and Its Clinical Experiential Applications

Event Details


This course introduces all candidates and students to the fundamental mental states that lie behind the Subjective Self development during the first three years of life, as well as during the mind’s reparation process in psychotherapeutic clinical treatment.

We enter this terrain through a poignant vision of Melanie Klein’s theory, highlighting her unique and universal psychic positions: the Paranoid-Schizoid Position and the Depressive Position. Thomas Ogden’s (1986) The Matrix of the Mind: Object Relations and the Psychoanalytic Dialogue will be used in this course as a roadmap.

Dr. Kavaler-Adler teaches all the chapters on Melanie Klein’s view of psychic “phantasy” and of the two psychic positions, where Ogden provides vivid clinical illustrations from his own practice.

She also comments on her own clinical case examples, and clinical case articles, as in the poetic birth of the passionate and related self in “Regrets for Daddy” from her 2013 book Anatomy of Regret: From Death Instinct to Reparation and Symbolization through Vivid Clinical Cases.

The vision of the main contributions of the British Object Relations theorists continues with chapters from The Matrix of the Mind that depict some of the primary and developmental theories of D. W. Winnicott. The original thinking of D.W. Winnicott in relation to the matrix of the mind residing in the “maternal matrix” is explored and demonstrated in clinical examples. Also, Winnicott’s unique vision of “potential space” is explicated.

Contrasts between Melanie Klein’s thinking and that of Winnicott are acknowledged, while the veritable truth that Winnicott was inspired by Klein in all his thinking is also acknowledged. Winnicott was outlining his contrasting view of the environment, and its evolution into the interpersonal realm that emerges through transitional space and transitional objects.

Winnicott’s view of the “holding environment” for both the mother of an infant and toddler and for the psychotherapist of a character disordered (“false self”) patient will also be part of the beginning exploration of Winnicott’s genius, as he combined the knowledge of being a pediatrician with that of being a psychoanalytic clinician with a developmental focus.

The latter part of the course will relate to readings in Dr. Kavaler-Adler’s 2014 book The Klein-Winnicott Dialectic: Transformative New Metapsychology and Interactive Clinical Theory, related to these two primary British Object Relations theorists, enlarging the scope provided by Dr. Thomas Ogden.

This book introduces readers to the psychobiographies of Melanie Klein and D. W. Winnicott, illustrating how each of the mothers of these two theorists influenced the construction of their boldly contrasting, and yet clinically complementary theories. Chapters read for class will introduce students to the dramatic domination of Melanie Klein’s mother during her life, both literally (during her early life until her divorce and entrance into psychoanalysis with Karl Abraham), and then theoretically (during her later life as a psychoanalyst who pioneered psychoanalytic Object Relations).

Klein-Winnicott Dialectic book will also be used to show Dr. Kavaler-Adler’s clinical work that integrates major contributions of each of these two formidable and pioneering clinical theorists. This book helps students to understand how the combination of the contributions of Melanie Klein’s and of D. W. Winnicott’s clinical theory can provide for the most profound, healing, and transformative clinical work. Also, the combination of Winnicott’s view of “object survival” through the therapeutic “holding environment” and the therapeutic process of mourning, first written about by Melanie Klein, can be seen to initiate the “developmental mourning” process spoken about by Susan Kavaler-Adler in all her work.

The subjects of “transitional space” and of the transition from the paranoid-schizoid position to the depressive position are also addressed head on in the clinical chapters of The Klein-Winnicott Dialectic.

The students are encouraged to comment on the materials and to ask questions, as well as to share their own clinical experience, which creates a rich communal atmosphere.


Thursdays, October 12, 19, 26; November 2, 9, 16, 30; December 7; 14; 21, 2023 (8:40pm – 9:55pm)