Child Analysis

By Joyce, Angela | International Journal of Psychoanalysis, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Child Analysis


Joyce, Angela, International Journal of Psychoanalysis


Child analysis

The presence of the therapist: Treating childhood trauma by Monica Lanyado Hove: Brunner-Routledge. 2003. 160 p.

Infant-parent psychotherapy. A handbook by Stella Acquarone London: Karnac. 2004. 308 p.

Child analysis today edited by Luis Rodriguez de la Sierra London: Karnac (BPAS Psychoanalytic Ideas series). 2004. 115 p.

Reviewed by Angela Joyce, Anna Freud Centre, 21 Maresfield Gardens, London, NW3 5SD, UK - angela.joyce1@btopenworld.com

At first sight, to review these three books together is a daunting endeavour. The first is by a member of the UK Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP) and focuses on treating childhood trauma; the second is also by an ACP member who has been one of the pioneers of direct work with infants and their parents in the UK; and the third is a small edited book of papers about child analysis. Although they all address psychoanalytic work with children, they are curiously different and as such reflect the complexity of the child psychoanalytic field in the UK today.

From an historical perspective, this field has several dimensions, not solely the vagaries of theoretical and personal politics that are so clearly described by Rodriguez de la Sierra. The great pioneers of this work: Melanie Klein, Anna Freud and Donald W. Winnicott, are well known to the psychoanalytic community worldwide, as are the traditions they wittingly or unwittingly spawned. These, until very recently, also provided the political structure through which the theoretical traditions were bequeathed to ongoing generations of psychoanalysts in the British Psychoanalytical Society (BPAS) and beyond. However, in UK child psychoanalytic work, institutional aspects have other meanings and influences, and indeed on the ongoing extension and creativity of the field. This is one of the most interesting aspects when reading these three books together: the view they give of where the creative edge is in psychoanalytic work with children today.

I use the phrase 'psychoanalytic work with children', not 'the psychoanalysis of children', to reflect the breadth of the perspective I believe needs to be taken in appraising the situation with regard to this group, at least in the UK. I do not know the situation very well in other countries. It might also be the case in relation to work with adults, but that is for another time perhaps. For it has to be acknowledged that for some considerable time most of this work has been done not within the portals of the BPAS/IPA but the ACP and its constituent bodies: the Anna Freud Centre, the Tavistock Clinic, the British Association of Psychotherapists, the Society of Analytical Psychologists, the West Midlands training and, more recently, the Northern School. The graduates of these trainings in psychoanalytic psychotherapy work in institutions run by public bodies, such as child and adolescent mental-health services, various charities and independent clinics, and it is in these places that the vast majority of analytic work is done. The world of private practice that is the hallmark of psychoanalytic work with adults affording some potential for 'intensive' treatment defined by the frequency of sessions is to all intents and purposes nonexistent in work with children. This perhaps may seem parochial to an international readership, but it may reflect some of the dilemmas facing the psychoanalytic world as a whole, and the well-documented crisis of practice.

Perhaps inevitably, the disturbances of child patients referred for treatment to these clinics have presented practitioners with great challenges in terms of technique, as well as in the theoretical assumptions that drive technique. In reading Monica Lanyado and Stella Acquarone at least, we can see how these challenges have led the original theoretical paradigms to be extended and modified-in some cases radically so. Certainly, the adaptation of technique to meet the needs of these new patient populations is apparent and to some degree celebrated. …

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