Marriage as a psychological container
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I have often wondered why it is that “long-term work” has a different meaning In marital psychotherapy from the one it has come to have in individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Nowadays it is not unusual for individual psychotherapy to extend over five years or more. Yet in my experience—and this applies to all the work done at the Tavistock Institute of Marital Studies—it is highly unusual for couples to continue in therapy beyond three years, and I know of only a handful of cases in the history of the unit that have gone on as long as five years. Yet our work is based on the same psychoanalytic principles and methods as those that inform individual therapy. Why should this difference exist, and what does it say about the differences between these two overlapping therapeutic approaches?