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November 2021

How do transitional objects work?: The therapist's view

Author(s): Madill, A.

Journal/Book: Brit J Med Psychol. 1999; 72: St Andrews House, 48 Princess Rd East, Leicester, Leics, England Le1 7Dr. British Psychological Soc. 1-21.

Abstract: Research into the use of transitional objects (Winnicott, 1971) by adult clients in psychotherapy has given little attention to the question of how a transitional abject (TO) works. This question is addressed through the use of a semi-structured interview. Data was collected on the clinical practice and theoretical understanding of TO emergence and use of three psychodynamic-interpersonal (PI) and three Gestalt psychotherapists. A grounded theory analysis suggests that a TO works by a process of embodiment which can be structured with reference to a four-level model consisting of physical, process, contextual and conceptual levels. Therapists of both orientations emphasized the TO as a focus of intersubjectivity within the therapeutic relationship. Differences between the PI and Gestalt therapists are also examined. The clinical implications of this four-level model of embodiment for the use of TOs in psychotherapy are explored, together with suggestions for further research.

Note: Article Arthern J, Univ Leeds, Sch Psychol, Leeds LS2 9JT, W Yorkshire, ENGLAND


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