Homework assignments, or specific tasks patients are asked to engage in or complete between sessions, are a controversial topic among psychoanalysts. While many argue these interventions contradict psychoanalytic principles, others believe they can help address problems and promote coping skills. We propose that homework can be a legitimate aspect of relational psychoanalysis when used in a way that is attuned to the patient's experience and that homework may be an important component of treating personality disorders (PD). We present the case of a man diagnosed with narcissistic PD. He often felt superior to and reported that he despised others, though the core self-image was of fragile. He embraced the role of the omnipotent caregiver, which came with boredom and anger and lack of satisfaction in his social life. The patient tried to control therapy, asserting that he could psychoanalyze himself. As a result, therapy was stalled and progress was limited. At this point, the therapist asked him to complete homework assignments that encouraged him to refrain from his compulsive caregiving to better understand what motivated this behavior. Through this process, the patient came to realize he acted out of avoidance, as he did not want to disclose his own vulnerabilities and flaws. At that point he was able to experience relationships while adopting different stances and finding new meanings. We argue that homework can be fully integrated into the relational psychoanalytic repertoire to improve self-reflection and foster change in patients with PD.
- psychotherapy integration
- relational psychoanalysis
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)