Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This thesis explored how transitional objects are utilized and interpreted in adult treatment. The definition of transitional object is open-ended consistent with D.W. Winnicott's assertions and Object Relations theory. Qualitative data was obtained by conducting in-depth interviews with three mental health professionals about specific patients and the course of treatment with a focus on emergent objects. Interview questions were open-ended and related to material that spontaneously arose. The first part of the thesis question related to how transitional objects are identified in adult treatment. Objects identified ranged from concrete to abstract. Therapists and patients identified the objects. Findings revealed that concrete objects tended to be more readily identified by patients and helped with affect regulation and soothing. Therapists exclusively identified abstract objects. The second part of the thesis question related to the process of interpretation of transitional objects. Findings suggested that clinicians and patients shared in this process. Similar to the process of identification, concrete objects were more likely to be interpreted by patients while abstract objects were identified by therapists. Therapists tended to use the interpretations of abstract objects for their own understanding and did not necessarily share those interpretations directly with their clients. This thesis attempts to broaden the lens to view the role of objects in adult treatment. Hopefully the case studies provide material that can be generalized and useful to inspire further creative processes into adult psychotherapy.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iv, 51 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 51)