This book had its origins in a project that was started some five years ago. At that time it was felt that it would be useful to bring out a current "state-of-the-art" summary in the field of childhood psychopathology. The focus of professional attention was then, and still is, directed toward social phenomena and group processes to a point where the needs and understanding of the individual patient are being largely ignored.
All sciences seem to have their fads and the behavioral sciences are particularly vulnerable in this respect. The present interest in disordered social conditions and all of the undesirable consequences that follow from them has given rise to mechanistic therapeutic approaches in which external manipulation of the individual and his surroundings is emphasized. The dilemma posed by our social problems has led to a search for quick and easy solutions which could be applied en masse to just about every kind of difficulty related to human adjustment. A mechanistic approach has its origins in the nature of the American character and in our country's history of having solved massive objective problems through technology.
The theoretical point of view in this book is psychoanalytic. Psychoanalysis offers no panaceas for our social ills. It does, however, furnish us with a body of comprehensive theory and a framework within which human behavior can be understood. It leads us to consider inner psychological experience as paramount and to regard the main determinants of human behavior as unconscious processes. It does not neglect environmental forces, but sees these as selectively interweaving with our constitutional givens to mold psychosexual development and character formation. These processes can often be most advantageously observed during the early years and this is another reason why child therapy is so important.
A psychoanalytic approach to mental health must, of necessity, be a conservative one. It regards the workings of the human mind as highly involved and makes no attempt to oversimplify what is a complicated psychological process. To do so would be to distort reality. Psychoanalysis does help to set our task in perspective. It does give us a method for understanding the psychological make-up of the individual. As this knowledge becomes more broadened, it may hopefully lead to the development of truly intelligent social and educational planning.
None of this should be taken to mean that mechanistic therapies have no place. They certainly can make a valuable contribution in selected . . .