Why Study Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis?
Psychoanalysis is one of the most powerful tools we have to facilitate an individual’s psychological and emotional growth. Its mutative power can be exponentially increased by intervening early in a child’s life. For children and adolescents who have complex, internalized problems, the analytic process is often the best method to liberate them from maladaptive behaviors and painful states of mind, and to help them resume a healthy developmental process.
As child analysts, we are uniquely positioned to identify the underlying motivations and beliefs which determine patterns of behavior, attitudes, and states of mind. We can observe, firsthand, the forces which mold a given individual and the ways a child or adolescent copes with the challenges life has presented. Most significantly, we are in position to build a powerful supportive and transformative relationship with them and within their other immediate relationships.
Education in child and adolescent analysis prepares the dedicated and curious clinician to practice psychoanalysis, to work dynamically with individual patients and their families in psychotherapy, to consult with community agencies, and to teach development to future practitioners.
In addition, analytic training can deepen the work of adult analysts and help them to understand the “child” and “adolescent” in their adult patients. What follows are reflections by adult analysts who trained at SFCP about the value of their exposure to child and adolescent analytic thinking and practice:
“Hearing cases at different stages of development helps generate a model of the mind, while hearing only adult cases creates pressure to impose a preconceived model.”
“…the illustration of the unconscious as it appears in play is very evocative and illuminating.”
“…in the context of today’s emphasis on sensitivity to cultural differences, child material illustrate that child-rearing practices vary dramatically from culture to culture…(and) are very observable and significant to the subsequent development of the adult.”
“Work with children necessarily emphasizes action, rather than words. Seeing how child analysts address the action helped me make the difficult but crucial shift to attending to what the patient is doing with the analyst in the transference, rather than simply listening to the narrative content.”
“The cases presented were full of life and honest expression. Nothing was off the table: child cases held overt conflict, love, inhibition, frustration, excitement, sex, aggression…they were messy and uncomfortable and painful, yet they felt real and there was a delight..in experiencing that realness. Children bring an honesty that other theory or adult classes couldn’t match. And what I heard play out in child clinical hours demonstrated many, if not all, of the key concepts and principles of psychoanalytic theory that were in Freud’s writings.”