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Edgcumbe, R. (1985). Anna Freud's Contribution to Technique and Clinical Understanding in Child Psychoanalysis. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 8(3):155-168.

(1985). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 8(3):155-168

Anna Freud's Contribution to Technique and Clinical Understanding in Child Psychoanalysis

Rose Edgcumbe

In presenting Anna Freud's work to you I will make, for the sake of convenience, what is in fact an artificial division between her theoretical, clinical and research contributions to psychoanalysis; for Anna Freud's theoretical contributions arise out of clinical experience and research, in particular her long and varied experience of work with children. In turn her theoretical and conceptual clarity greatly facilitated her capacity to reason simply and clearly about clinical and technical problems.

Having been a teacher, Anna Freud came to psychoanalysis equipped with extensive practical experience of the mind of the child, as well as an intuitive understanding of the way children think and feel, and understand the world. Not only was she well aware that children are intellectually and emotionally different from adults, she also knew how greatly children differ according to age, as they move from one developmental phase to the next. From this it follows that work with children requires a different approach from work with adults, whether that work be educational or therapeutic. From the very beginning Anna Freud's psychoanalytic work with children was influenced by her detailed awareness of developmental issues. In the 1920s, when child analysis was in its early experimental stages, Anna Freud thought that the child's dependence on its parents and age-appropriate caution with strangers would result in mistrust of the analyst which could only be overcome by an introductory period during which the analyst made friends with the child, gaining its trust and confidence, and encouraging a positive transference (A. Freud, 1926). She subsequently abandoned this view, when it became apparent that analysis of defence could allay the child's initial anxieties (A. Freud, 1945). But even in 1965 she remained unconvinced that the child's transference neurosis is the same as the adult's.

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