The porcupine’s dilemma: Couples and space during the lockdown
The events of the pandemic have had a significant effect on adult couple relationships, both positive and negative. Sustaining a couple relationship of whatever kind is never easy and presents many challenges, chief amongst them to create a relationship in which there is room for two people and to develop the capacity to manage intimacy, as well as managing a balance of dependency and separateness. What feels claustrophobic for one partner may feel lonely to the other. These issues have been made all the more acute by the pandemic, the effect of which has been to enforce proximity and for some separation, to unprecedented levels.
We will explore how the difficulties in simply sharing space have been further exacerbated by our recent lockdown experience, presenting clinicians with some significant therapeutic challenges.
Joanna Rosenthall is the Clinical Lead for the Couples Unit in the Adult Department of the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust. She is also a psychoanalyst in private practice, working with both couples and individuals. She was a senior staff member for many years at the Tavistock Relationships, where she ran the clinical training and Professional Doctorate programme in couple psychoanalytic psychotherapy. She teaches and lectures both in Britain and abroad on the psychoanalytic theory and practice of working with couples. She has published a number of papers in this area; recent ones have focussed on couples who function as if they are fused and couples who display high levels of expressed emotion and can’t stop arguing.
Leezah Hertzmann is a couple and individual psychoanalytic psychotherapist at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and in private practice. She has a career long interest in psychoanalytic theory and technique with LGBTQI+ individuals and couples and is a member of the British Psychoanalytic Council special advisory group on sexual and gender diversity. Leezah was the recipient of two British Psychoanalytic Council awards: one in 2015, for innovation in relation to her work developing evidence based interventions for couples in dysregulated/violent relationships (2015) and the second (2019), the Bernard Ratigan Diversity Award, for developing and influencing psychoanalytic institutions towards a more inclusive sexual and gender-diversity culture. Leezah teaches and publishes widely and her most recent publication, authored with Juliet Newbigin, ‘Sexuality and Gender Now: moving beyond heteronormativity,’ is published by Routledge in the Tavistock Clinic Series.
For 100 years, the Tavistock and Portman has proudly been at the forefront of exploring mental health and wellbeing. From attachment theory and infant observation, to applying psychoanalytic and systemic approaches in varied settings, our ideas have led to changes in care, education, how organisations work and beyond.
Our Centenary Festival is celebrating our history and exploring contemporary issues in relation to identity, relationships and society. It is considering how we continue to draw on our heritage to provide valuable responses to contemporary and future problems from the perspective of equality and inclusion.