Academic journal article The Psychoanalytical Study of the Child

Dialogue with the Novicks

Academic journal article The Psychoanalytical Study of the Child

Dialogue with the Novicks

Article excerpt

Two of the editors o/The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child converse with authors Kerry Kelly Novick and Jack Novick, Ph.D., about their paper "Concurrent Work with Parents of Adolescent Patients." Highlights include the authors' stated goal of restoring a positive relationship to the teenparent bond, a new extension of the work of analysis with adolescents, the transference-countertransference complexities when the same analyst works with both adolescent and parents, and the uses of the term transformation-its traditional meaning in the developmental process of the individual and the authors' conceptualization of the term in their adolescentparent treatment paradigm.

WE, KERRY AND JACK NOVICK, ARE GRATEFUL TO THE EDITORS FOR the thoughtful questions that follow. Each could actually evoke detailed and lengthy responses, indeed a whole paper, to elaborate the thoughts. Here, however, we will try to respond briefly to clarify, emphasize, or extend particular points.

1. We know you've thought a great deal about the therapeutic value of working with parents in the course of analysis with children of all ages. You describe two goals of this work. The first is pragmatic: "Working with parents. .. helps people [individual children] enter treatment, stay and do the necessary work, and leave in a timely fashion." The other goal is an interesting, totally new extension of the usual reason for child analysis: "Restoration of the parent-child relationship to a lifelong positive resource for both. " This is a social, multiperson, long-term goal, usually thought of as a possible result rather than as a goal of psychoanalysis. Tell us more about your focus on the relationship itself and how this alters your view of psychoanalysis.

We feel that the importance of the parent-child relationship as the context for development and the delivery system of the environment's impact on a child's development is already established, both in our work and in all modern developmental research. In the paper in this volume we describe the pragmatic impact of actualizing that conceptual assumption for making treatments of late adolescents work.

If we restrict the idea of child analysis only to the individual child, then we would be denying the knowledge that psychoanalysis is about the complexity of development and the relationships that foster both health and pathology. If we focus only on a child's symptoms, that is not a psychoanalytic approach. From the beginning of an evaluation, we assume and communicate to child and parents that the child's troubles are part of a larger parent-child history. For full understanding and therapeutic change, we say that both individual and family aspects will need attention. We note in the paper that it's central for the analyst to keep the parent-child relationship in mind, no matter what the treatment structure happens to be.

This question also gives us a chance to revise any potential misunderstanding of the notion of the parent-child relationship as a 'lifelong positive resource for both." Perhaps it would be clearer to speak instead of a "realistic" resource. Most parents and most children and adolescents welcome the idea of an improved and closer relationship with hope and relief, and the outcome is usually eventually positive.

But there are some situations in which there are irreparably toxic elements and the reality is not positive. Then the hierarchy of clinical values that mandates physical and emotional safety as the highest priority takes precedence. The realistic outcome of parent work under such circumstances is to help the adolescent and/or the parent come to a place where they can take what they need from the relationship for their own good. That might, for instance, involve not having contact with the toxic parent or meeting only under supervision.

A basic thrust of all our work has been the effort to reclaim the metapsychological complexity of human development and functioning. …

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