A basic premise of most psychodynamic approaches in treating marital and family conflict is that partner and family difficulties are often seen as symptoms of unresolved childhood conflicts. These conflicts may be repeated across generations, paralleling the idea of fixation or regression to earlier less mature developmental levels. The idea of the intergenerational transmission of divorce is also predicated on the assumption that unresolved personal, relational, and familial conflicts get played out in succeeding generations of the family. Much of the initial phases of treatment in working with divorcing clients focuses on ameliorating the crisis and traumatic aspects of the divorce decision and adjustments. Later in treatment, a careful exploration of the history and patterns of individual and family dysfunction is critical in helping clients understand the dynamics of the problems and in gaining insights and tools to break old patterns and to make healthier choices. Thus, both practical problem solving and dynamic exploration need to be part of the divorce process in therapy. A tenet of psychodynamic couple therapy is that the root of most couple problems can be found in the failure of one or both partners to individuate Divorcing Couples 409 410 SPECIAL ISSUES FACED BY COUPLES and master the developmental task of separation and differentiation. This concept has had a great impact on the theory and practice of divorce therapy, requiring that client and therapist explore the person’s history of separations, to work through and master the most difficult separation of all, the loss of the partner. The underlying theme of these therapeutic strategies revolves around understanding how earlier conflicts are manifested in the marriage and later in the divorce . The therapist, however, also takes into account that marital conflict and dissolution may occur in the absence of significant individual psychopathology and may be the result of the cultural and situational constraints on the partners and the interaction between the partners. Such a view respects a family systems approach.
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