Relational psychoanalysis: The clinical and theoretical worlds of the relational analyst
This study investigated how psychoanalysts who identify themselves as working primarily from a relational perspective understand and integrate relational psychoanalytic theory in their clinical work. Using a phenomenological-based qualitative collective case study format, the researcher gathered information from 3 relational analysts through a semi-structured interview. The interviewees completed their psychoanalytic training more than 20 years ago.
The researcher employed a phenomenological data analysis approach coding, classifying, revising and ultimately collapsing key concepts that emerged from multiple close readings of the transcripts into 5 mega themes. The 1st mega theme related to issues of theoretical and professional identity (Who/Where am I? Ambivalence about Relational Psychoanalysis). The 2nd mega theme focused on the theoretical journey of the participants, including their relationships with classical psychoanalysis (How did I get here? The evolution of a relational approach). The next mega theme described how the participants understood the various parties of the analytic dyad (Who's in the room? The relational analyst, the relational patient and the relational dyad). What happens among these parties is captured by the fourth mega theme (What do I do in the room? Relational psychoanalytic techniques). Thoughts about the integration of theory and practice are summarized in the last mega theme (The relationship between theory and practice: Relational ideas at work).
The study revealed several areas for future research including similar intra-movement research comparing relational analysts with varying degrees of experience and inter-movement research investigating analysts from diverse analytic movements. The relationship between the analyst's character structure and analytic orientation of choice is another arena for future research. In addition to informing future research, the findings are also relevant to analytic training, supervision, and institutional dynamics.