The Motherhood Constellation: A Unified View of Parent-Infant Psychotherapy


With the publication in 1985 of The Interpersonal World of the Infant, Daniel N. Stern changed the way we understand how individuals develop a sense of self. Now in this pioneering new work of creative synthesis, he maps out the emerging field of parent-infant psychotherapy and describes a powerful new paradigm for understanding the relationship between parent and child: the motherhood constellation. With the birth of a baby, Stern argues, the mother (and, to some extent, the father) passes into a unique stage of life with a new set of tendencies, sensibilities, fantasies, fears, and wishes. This new organization of mental life - the motherhood constellation - forces clinicians working with mothers and infants to adopt a different treatment framework and therapeutic alliance. From an analysis of the leading schools of parent-infant psychotherapy, Stern crystallizes the factors that effect change. He shows in vivid detail the critical elements of any parent-infant clinical system: the parents' representations of the relationship with their baby, the overt interactions occurring between parent and infant, the infant's representations of these interactions, and the place of the therapist in this clinical system. Through his clear picture of the clinical situation, refined search for what's effective in parent-infant therapy, and illustration of the motherhood constellation, Stern reveals a general new form of therapy. This wholly original view of parent-infant psychotherapy and motherhood, with its practical implications for therapy, is a major contribution to our understanding of human development, psychopathology, and therapy in general.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1995


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