Object Relations Theory is a psychodynamic psychotherapy theory developed by British psychoanalyst Melanie Klein in the early 20th century. It focuses on the individual’s relationships with the external world and the internalization of those relationships. The theory views the individual as being composed of parts that are in constant relationship and interaction with each other and with the external environment. Object Relations Theory has been used to explain a wide range of psychological problems and clinical disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Object Relations Theory is based on the idea that human mental life is organized around relationships. These relationships can be both internal, with the individual’s own self, and external, with other people. The theory states that when an individual has a healthy relationship with the external world, they will be better able to manage their internal relationships. The internal relationships are composed of parts or objects that make up the individual’s personality, such as the ego, the superego, and the id. Object Relations Theory states that when these objects are in balance and in harmony with each other, the individual will experience psychological wellbeing.

Object Relations Theory states that when a person experiences psychological distress, it is often due to a disruption in the balance of the internal objects. This disruption can be caused by a traumatic experience, such as abuse or neglect, or by interactions with the external world that are not supportive or nurturing. Object Relations Theory suggests that when the individual is able to restore balance to their internal objects, they will experience psychological healing.

Object Relations Theory is often used in psychodynamic psychotherapy to help individuals process their internal conflicts and restore balance to their inner world. The therapist will help the individual to explore their relationships with their internal objects, identify areas of conflict, and work to resolve them. The therapist will also help the individual to recognize and understand the external relationships that may have contributed to the disruption of the internal objects.

Object Relations Theory is a valuable tool for understanding psychological distress and can be used to inform therapeutic interventions. It is important to note, however, that Object Relations Theory is a complex and multifaceted theory. As such, it is best used in conjunction with other psychotherapeutic approaches to ensure the most effective treatment.


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Klein, M. (1946). Contributions to psycho-analysis. London: Hogarth Press.

Kohut, H. (1971). The analysis of the self. New York, NY: International Universities Press.

Shapiro, T. (2020). Object relations theory. In M. Hersen & J. M. Gross (Eds.), Encyclopedia of psychological assessment, treatment, and research (pp. 888-892). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Tyson, P., & Tyson, R. (2015). Psychodynamic therapy: A guide to evidence-based practice. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

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