Working with Parents and Infants: A Mind-Body Integration Approach

Article excerpt

Working With Parents and Infants: A Mind-Body Integration Approach by Antonella Sansone. 2007. London: H. Karnac Ltd. (www.karnacbooks.com). Ill pp. ISBN-IO: 185575438X; ISBN-13: 978-1855754386.

Originally bearing the subtitle, "A Psyche-Soma Integration Approach," the published subtitle of this new book teaches a quick translation of these Greek-derived technical words. Additionally, Sansone tells us that "soma" is a Greek word referring to "the living body in its wholeness." She states, "Whatever we experience in and through the body forms our somatic reality... When any expressions of the living body are suppressed, the wholeness and harmony of our somatic reality is undermined. And so [too] is the psyche, as psyche and soma belong to each other." This book gives clear exposition and understanding of the intertwining of psyche and soma (a relationship understood by the founders of the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, who offer a program based on both psychology and soma studies).

A surprising bonus of this book is its easy sense of personal communication to readers, whether parents, practitioners, or anyone who has been born. It evolved from Sansone's masters thesis, and we are treated to apt references from McDougall, Klein, Winnicott, Hegel, Heidegger, Likierman and Ferenczi. Most of Sansone's background exposition relies on D.W. Winnicott, and we are treated to quotes from Sansone's previous book, Mothers, Babies and Their Body Language, in which she argued a view of the inseparability between body and mental functions, calling for "psychophysical integration":

"While thinking, speaking, dreaming, and interacting, there are changes in our breathing, muscle tone, posture, and facial expression.... They are powerful forms of non-verbal communication." (Sansone, 2000, p. 51)

Sansone introduces her book with a nine-page summary of its ten chapters.

In Chapter 1, Sansone gives a history. The split between psyche and soma goes back to Descartes' (1644) philosophy of dualism.

Chapter 2 lays the foundation of Sansone's acknowledgments to Winnicott. Here too is our first introduction to the main case history, a new mother by the name of Andrea, whose unresolved dysattachment and unbondedness from her own mother resulted in mastitis, which gave her the perfect justification for not breastfeeding baby daughter Rosy.

In Chapter 3, Sansone explores mother-baby mirroring as a vital pathway for mother's integrated bodyself image to infuse baby with good self-image and self-confidence: "If this process does not take place, the infant may escape from frightening feelings and become unable to monitor them in later life."

In Chapter 4, Sansone explores the importance of touch and movement, particularly through infant massage, and the resulting benefits to mother as well as baby. From the author's experiences, infant massage classes are one of the most effective tools for healing mother and baby. And, apt attention is given to how therapists can work in triadic transferences and countertransferences among themselves, mother and baby.

In Chapter 5, we experience that case history is a most potent teaching tool. Sansone presents Andrea: from irrational screams while merely anticipating pangs of labor, to the almost total disconnect between this unattached and unbonded mother and her newborn Rosy. While medical staff treats mastitis as the problem, Sansone observes it as a symptom by which Andrea's body gives justification for not breastfeeding Rosy or in fact having any eye contact or physical proximity with her baby.

An interesting observation from the author is that "Talking in therapy can be a way of being in any other time and place except in the present one. Helpful listening is ... a form of meditation, which provides the therapist with a direct experience of the client. Being present leads to a unity of therapist and client."

Chapter 6 explores the author's foundation in meditation and yoga as well as Buddhist concepts that help facilitate psychotherapy. …

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