Cooper and Lesser (2015) assert that though the term “object” sounds “outdated” and “mechanistic” (p. 76), the application of the basic tenets of object relations theory may enable you to better understand your clients’ ways of thinking and maladaptive behavior patterns. Object relations theory asserts that an individual’s interactions with his or her primary caregivers or “objects” in infancy influence the individual’s interpersonal relationships even into adulthood. Not only do these early interpersonal relationships affect how individuals relate to other people and situations, they may affect the way they relate to you when you initiate clinical relationships with them.

As you prepare for this Application Assignment, focus on the various perspectives of object relations theory as presented in the Cooper and Lesser (2015) course text, as well as the ways clinical social workers apply these ideas in their work with clients. Read the Object Relations Theory Case Example document and consider how you might apply object relations theory to the difficult encounter described. Also, think of difficult encounters you have had with clients and select one to address in this Assignment.

The Assignment (1 pages):

  • Explain how you might use object relations theory to account for Robbie R.’s experiences—both perceived and real. (Robbie R. is the client in the Object Relations Theory Case Example.) Be sure to explain what is occurring in the therapist-client interaction in the case example, such as what the therapist and client may have been thinking during the interaction and why they behaved as they did.
  • Explain how you might apply an object relations theory-based intervention model to a difficult client encounter you have experienced in your own practice. Be specific and provide examples, including details about the client and his or her situation. (Be sure to disguise any identifying information about the client.
 

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