Reid, J., & Kealy, D. (2022). Understanding and Working with the Effects of Parental Pathological Projective Identification. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 1-18.


The present paper outlines parental pathological projective identification as a form of childhood adversity that some patients attempt to address in psychotherapy. This phenomenon involves a parent’s unconscious relocation of an unbearable state of mind, combined with the interpersonal evocation of such in the child. A child’s effort to deal with this experience may involve the development of pathogenic beliefs about the self. These beliefs subsequently cause difficulties in living and considerable distress. Through understanding the dynamics of parental pathological projective identification, clinicians may help patients to develop insight into the origins of their pathogenic beliefs, along with appropriate corrective experiences. The integration of Control-Mastery Theory with the concept of parental pathological projective identification can facilitate such understanding. A clinical example is provided to illustrate these concepts and their relevance to psychotherapy with adult patients.

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