Imitation in development and in developmental failure: A case study based on a Child’s Psychotherapy

Fan, Hsueh-Mei (2014) Imitation in development and in developmental failure: A case study based on a Child’s Psychotherapy. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust/University of East London. Full text available

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This is a single case study of a child patient. The research uses detailed written notes of a child patient’s intensive psychotherapy sessions to explore the phenomena of imitative and repetitive (self imitating) behaviour that was a central part of her presence within the treatment relationship. It examines the contrasting place of imitation in the psychological and psychoanalytic literature. The former has concentrated on episodes of imitation, their role in cognitive and social development, and the inhibition/absence of imitation in autism. Imitation has received much less attention within the psychoanalytic literature as it is regarded as part of the wider growth of the identification process within the mind. In this literature, it is the presence (rather than absence) of a particular form of imitative identification in autism that is thought to inhibit development and its association with deficiencies in identification processes. The research systematically examines the patient’s material in order to identify the various forms and patterning of imitative behaviours/scenarios; to suggest its purposes and functions for the child; and to frame a hypothesis as to its contradictory impact on her development. The empirical data suggested that the patient’s imitative behaviour served several purposes both developmental and non-developmental. Among the developmental purposes, the patient’s imitation was strongly related to language acquisition, memory and cognitive and social development in line with the experimental findings of cognitive, social and developmental psychology. However, imitations were also used by the patient in a manner that that could be characterised as non or antidevelopmental, a phenomenon rarely discussed in the experimental literature. Some such episodes could be described, within a psychoanalytic framework, as being used to defend against particular feelings associated with an awareness of being a child dependent on adults. For this patient, imitation was a pervasive aspect of a way of being and of relating to others.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and the University of East London for the degree of Professional Doctorate in Child Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Child Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, University of East London, 2023 additions
Subjects: Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Child Development
Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Child Psychotherapy
Communication (incl. disorders of) > Autism
Research, Tests, Assessments > Psychotherapy Research
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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