Helping patients master core conflictual relationship themes in psychotherapy

Publication Name

Journal of Clinical Psychology


An important component of case formulation is to understand the patient's difficulties in the context of their relationships. The Core Conflictual Relationship Theme (CCRT) method provides a clinical guide for understanding the narratives of relationship conflicts told during therapy. We follow the case of Barbara, a 60 year old with a long history of chronic shyness. Her narratives follow a common CCRT: she wishes to feel safe, but fears that others are out to get her, which makes her withdraw. These patterns have pervasively repeated themselves in the past, present, and across different relationships (self, family, partners, colleagues). The therapist responds carefully by creating safety, tolerating her fears, and working to overcome these CCRT patterns, thus reducing her impulse to withdraw from treatment. Psychotherapists from many theoretical orientations can learn how patients mastering these repetitive negative CCRTs can lead to more adaptive relationship patterns that improve their mental health.

Open Access Status

This publication may be available as open access

Funding Sponsor

NSW Ministry of Health



Link to publisher version (DOI)