Intricate EngagementsIntricate Engagements: The Collaborative Basis of Therapeutic Change
Jason Aronson (an imprint of Rowman-Littlefield), 1995 and 2004

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About Intricate Engagements

Intricate Engagements confronts one of the fundamental challenges of contemporary psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. At each clinical moment psychotherapists are flooded with possibilities. To manage this situation they often take refuge in preconceived ideas about psychology and change. Intricate Engagements helps therapists find their way through and out of this maze. Dr. Frankel shows how to chart a course through the moment-to-moment uncertainty of the therapeutic situation in a way that maintains the compelling immediacy and often terrifying intimacy required for two people to influence each other.
The author calls his picture of the mind, “the self and other unit model.” The major activities in working within this structure are recognizing the multiple relational configurations each partner brings to the therapy field, and identifying and resolving the inevitable disjunctions that interfere with therapeutic movement. In contrast to traditional models where the patient’s wisdom may be minimized, Dr. Frankel holds that heartfelt initiation from each partner in recognizing and healing failures in rapport leads to developmental momentum and lasting creative change.

What Others Say about Intricate Engagements

“A few years ago, Dr. Frankel found himself stalemated in several ongoing clinical situations. This richly textured book documents his professional and personal response to the challenges of those situations. He was led to reexamine his classical psychoanalytic roots, to explore relational theory, and to evolve his own hybrid collaborative theory of therapy and change. His thoughtfully, systematically, and candidly presented personal evolution can help clinicians at all levels to orient their practices in today’s evolving world of psychoanalysis…”
~ Excerpted from review in Contemporary Psychoanalysis

“…This is a courageous undertaking and Frankel takes the reader step by step through the intellectual and emotional processes that underlie this enterprise. He begins by actively engaging with the literature on the analytic process and on early development. This is no mere review of the literature: rather, it is a creative act of confronting, organizing, and interpreting a very wide range of analytic thought and empirical study. Intricate Engagements represents new ways of conceptualization of the analytic encounter, but the book is most importantly an illustration of a form of analytic integrity that is based on the willingness of the author to open to self-questioning every aspect of the analytic experience.”
~ Thomas Ogden, M.D.

“Dr. Frankel gives us a remarkable story of intellectual honesty and the search for personal meaning. He clearly shows through the eyes and soul of the therapist why we need something more than drives. Moving beyond the secure base of his classical training, he finds what he needs in his review of contemporary infant research, object relations, self psychology, and relational theories, all relayed in a simple yet thorough, scholarly way. I especially appreciated the impact of his critical research perspective in sharpening his observation of the clinical situation, the therapeutic relationship, and the relative value of interpretation. Plenty of clinical examples illuminate the theoretical distinctions and lead to the following chapters in search of the necessary theoretical advances. This book breaks new ground in the extent of its integration of contemporary developmental research and psychoanalytic theory applied to clinical practice.”
~ Jill Savege Scharff, M.D.


Foreword by Philip Erdberg, Ph.D.

Part I: Searching for Principles
Discovering the Patient
Guidelines for Theory and Action
Searching for Common Principles
The Facilitating Relationship in Clinical Practice
Reconstituting the Analytic Relationship
The Facilitating Relationship in Childhood
Applications to the Therapeutic Situation

Part II: A Relationship-Unit Model
The Self and Object Constellation
Assessment and Intervention
A Tool for Organizing Clinical Data

Part III: The Model Applied
The Analytic Field

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