The Four Quadrant Model that we use in our training programs is visual grid meant to capture both the individual or intrapsychic aspects of the psyche as well as the relational patterns and expectations our clients hold for others. The model illustrates how expectations of self and other are directly connected to how much individuals drive themselves to achieve their goals, as well as how each individual responds to disappointment when goals or expectations are not achieved.

In addition to these considerations, the model also illustrates how the parts of the self fall within conscious awareness and which parts of the self are non-conscious (or dissociated), in other words, less accessible or hidden either from the self or from others.

In the middle of the diagram, you see the word shame. Shame is the driving force that connects all four quadrants. With individuals who suffer from narcissistic injuries, you find a hypersensitivity to feelings of shame and unworthiness. Each of the sub-types of narcissistic over-compensation is an attempt to distance from the eruption of shameful feelings emerging into conscious awareness.

It is important to realize that it is the avoidance of shame that fuels the compensatory mechanisms of narcissistic defenses the direct experience of shame poses a psychic threat – to maintaining a cohered and positive sense of self.

Based on one’s relational history, quality of attachments, and degree of trauma, the model can be used both as an assessment tool as well as an ongoing roadmap during the course of treatment. For example, at the beginning of treatment, the model can help assess how fragile or defended the patient is. Later in treatment if a therapist becomes “stuck” in the therapy, the therapist can ask, “What Quadrant is being ignored, underemphasized, or hidden from view?” Or the therapist can ask, “How might hidden shame be driving expectations or fueling disappointments?”

In other words, the framework used in the design of this model is meant to capture a clearer understanding of how various “parts” of the psyche are either split off or connected together in to a self-cohered whole. Additionally, the model illustrates how individuals can flow in and out of conscious states of awareness, based on their level of fragility or rigidity of the defense structure.

Finally, our goal in creating this model was meant to present a three- dimensional picture of the psyche so that therapists from different schools of thought, from different training orientations can see how their own expertise can be incorporated and applied to this psychodynamic, relationally-based framework. Having a roadmap that is “universal” and comprehensive can improve proficiency, regardless of your training orientation.