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Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression and Severe Resistance

Adult; Self-Help & Relationships; (Market)

Educates psychotherapists and those concerned with issues of mental health in couples and the family to the types of primitive mental processes to which we can all fall prey. Makes often very difficult to understand behaviors understandable. Discusses ways to deal with such behaviors that lead to the real possibility of gradual change.
John Mahlman, Ph.D.

The Millinium's First Classic in Psychotherapic Practice, March 3, 2000


John Mahlmann, Ph.D.

This review is from: Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression, and Severe Resistance (The Library of Object Relations) (Hardcover)

McCormack (2000)illuminates the techiques of a mature and seaoned psychotherapist in his beautifully written book. He demonstrates an intimate understanding of working with both defensively sophisticated and unsophisticated patients. His wonderful use of language, empathic understanding, and unique ability to "marinate in piss" is repeatedly demonstrated in emotionally charged and captivating vignettes that support the thesis of the book. This book is a must read for both seasoned and new practicioners.

Jon Frederickson

excellent introduction to work with borderline couples, March 26, 2000


jon frederickson

This review is from: Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression, and Severe Resistance (The Library of Object Relations) (Hardcover)

This book shows therapists how to help borderline couples begin to reflect on their feelings rather than act them out. The author uses clinical examples to show how clarification and confrontation of projections can help patients see each other, not just their fantasies. These patients often equate a spouse with a fantasy they have of the spouse; hence, they tend to be concrete and not curious. "No. That's not just how I see him. That's how he is!" McCormack shows how we can help these couples become less concrete, more reflective, and, as a result, more intimate. He talks honestly about how a therapist may 'drown' in the destructive feelings evoked in couples therapy. He shows how this happens, why, and how to work with that reality. The clinical examples he uses are raw, true to life, and, as a result, very useful. He is uncommonly honest and forthright in his discussion of when to share countertransference reactions with patients. He clearly does not see himself as an emotionally detached therapist. He likens work with borderline couples to psychological mud wrestling. His is a model of an emotionally engaged and relentless healer who tries to be as honest with himself as he is with his patients. As such, the book exemplifies the best of the existentialist and psychodynamic traditions.

Michael D Zentman

Read & internalize McCormack's ideas & insights if you treat or plan to treat couples in disorganized & chaotic relationships., February 13, 2014


Michael D. Zentman

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This review is from: Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression, and Severe Resistance (The Library of Object Relations) (Hardcover)

Charles McCormack’s book takes you inside a session, inside a patient’s deepest emotional state, inside a couple’s lived experience and inside the therapist’s intellectual and emotional world. It is an essential read for both newcomers and seasoned clinicians working with couples encountering extreme relational distress.

I run a couple treatment study group in Manhattan. After reading two of McCormack’s chapters we decided to read the book in its entirety. The group was so enthusiastic about his work that I offered to ask Charles to come to New York to run a master seminar for us. He came and we grew. Who could ask for anything more!

Read this clinically thoughtful, wise and erudite book. Your work with couples will be more interesting, effective and enjoyable.
Michael D. Zentman, Ph.D.

Ron Zuskin, MSW, DCSW

review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars A Bridge Over Troubled Marriage, April 13, 2000
This review is from: Treating Borderline States in Marriage: Dealing with Oppositionalism, Ruthless Aggression, and Severe Resistance (The Library of Object Relations) (Hardcover)
If one is bold enough to attempt couples' therapy one lesson soon emerges: there are couples, and there are couples. The normal/neurotic couple incorporates communicative-interactive tips and interventions directed towards effective communication, conflict resolution, problem solving and enhanced intimacy. The personality-disordered marriage, even when managed with strategic skill and therapeutic acumen, too often seems impervious to change. The therapist is frequently left floundering and "at a loss." Charles McCormack navigates the reader around the reefs and through the doldrums that typically wreck or stall therapy with these couples. In doing so he also sheds light on the soft human underbelly of ALL marriages, reflecting , as they do, some degree of early trauma or impingement - now well-met in a partner. McCormack starts with the therapist's capacity to play and takes us on a journey of vigilance and courage to the recognition that, in working with borderline states in marital therapy, it is likely to be the THREAPIST'S resistance to understanding which may forestall - and then foreclose - the therapeutic process. McCormack uses exquisitely drawn vignettes which render the words as well as the "music" of sessions with these couples, transmitting the "feel" AND the "sense" of the sessions. In these couples we hear the echoes of their dreams and see the omnipresence of their nightmares wedded in their coupling. Each individual unabashedly - ruthlessly - uses the other as a self-object. Through resistance and oppositionalism the couple works to use the therapist as a self-object, too. McCormack makes the confusion in working with these couples clear. Using concepts derived from object relations, psychodynamics, self psychology and Ogden's theories of modes of human experience, McCormack sheds light on a unique treatment approach for working with borderline and other personality-disordered marriages. This light dawns gradually and not in a rushing flash of epiphany. What is unknown might not be unknowable; there may be a psycho-logic underlying what seems so "irrational." Therapy begins in the mind of the therapist. Through separate individual interactions within the dyadic context, Mr. McCormack works first to change each partner's relationship with the therapist, and THEN their relationship with one another. Sequential interactions with each member of the couple provide not only "role modeling," but create psychological space in the treatment room, allowing for the development of "thirdness," where the "Other" and "We" can come more fully into being. McCormack offers a myriad of techniques - such as the "deniable interpretation," the challenge to certainty, and teasing out and surfacing inconsistencies in narrative - all of which add to the therapist's armamentarium in this difficult but potentially rewarding process. A world that may seem unintelligible at the beginning of this book - the scorned world of the personality-disordered marriage - is made knowable by the end. Interventions rooted in "being" a therapist with a couple of Beings supplant the panicked urgency of "doing something, anything" about the couple's plight. McCormack's techniques create a pathway towards repair instead of annihilation, all the while reassuring us that "therapists are human, too." McCormack's book helps to bridge the obstacles impeding therapeutic work with these troubled and troubling couples. He lets us know, when we find ourselves "at wit's end," that this is a very good place to begin our work.
Rose Selavy

This is an excellent book which not only succinctly explicates treatment of couples locked in conflict but offers insight into psychodynamic understanding of patients that can be applied to all psychodynamic therapeutic work with adults. The book is highly readable in an immediate style that is thought-provoking yet digestible. The author's intelligent formulations and clear explanations of his thought processes and interventions are accompanied by his humble awareness of the challenging nature of doing this work. I highly recommend this book particularly for therapists who work with couples, although all people in the field can benefit from the wisdom within.