‘Paralysed associations’: Countertransference difficulties in recognising meaning in the treatment of children on the autistic spectrum.

Rhode, Maria (2015) ‘Paralysed associations’: Countertransference difficulties in recognising meaning in the treatment of children on the autistic spectrum. Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 41 (3). pp. 218-230. ISSN 0075-417X

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Abstract/Book Review

Children with autism can have a paralysing effect on the clinician’s capacity to associate freely: connections that seem obvious on reflection may be impossible to notice in the child’s presence. The author argues that this situation can be reached by more than one pathway, and that the degree of the child’s bodily and emotional cohesion is an important factor. Children may seek to immobilise the therapist’s thought processes through projective identification, whether to communicate their own experience of paralysis or because these thought processes are equated with a parental intercourse that produces a ‘baby’ (as described by Bion and Britton). Vignettes are offered to illustrate how the therapist may be nudged into overlooking this baby as well as a potentially growing part of the child that is identified with it, with important consequences for development. A second possible pathway appears to involve the much more primitive mechanism of adhesive identification, in which the child’s sense of continuing existence depends on sticking to the therapist’s surface and any movement can lead to a sense of bodily disintegration. In the clinical illustration, the therapist felt physically constrained and unable to recognise links in the material: it is suggested that this was in resonance with the child’s fear that movement, whether physical or mental, meant losing parts of his body and must be avoided at all costs. These levels can mask each other, and it seems essential to attend to both in order to avoid impasse or the overlooking of essential aspects of the child’s experience.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Child Psychotherapy
Communication (incl. disorders of) > Autism
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Patient/Therapist Interaction
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services
Depositing User: Ms Jocelyn Wade
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2015 15:45
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2016 10:12
URI: http://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/1131

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