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Müller, E. (1989). Treatment of an 8-Year-Old Adopted Girl. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 12(1):29-47.

(1989). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 12(1):29-47

Treatment of an 8-Year-Old Adopted Girl

Elisabeth Müller


Anne was adopted when she was eighteen months old, when her adoptive parents, Mr and Mrs R, were 34 and 36 respectively. Anne had lived from birth till the time of her adoption in a home for small children, run by nuns. When Anne was about eight her parents1 had sought help because of the increasingly severe problems which had developed in Anne from about the time she started school. She did not behave in a way appropriate to her age either at school or at home. She did not take part in lessons or after-school activities; very often she could not remember the homework she was expected to do. Her parents were saddened by, amongst other things, her babyish behaviour - in particular that she had been soiling herself relatively often during the previous two years, beginning after the family had moved house.

Anne's analysis began when she was 8 years 2 months. She has now been in treatment for 4 years and attended sessions four times a week during the first 3 years. The parents are seen every three to four weeks unless there is some special reason to talk to them between times.

In my description of the course of treatment, I should like first to go into the detail of Anne's inner feelings as we came to know each other, and to describe the development of the therapeutic relationship. In connection with this, Anne's particular resistance to expressing herself verbally will be shown. In the second part of this paper I should like to discuss Anne's reaction to the knowledge of having been adopted. In this context the stay in the home before her adoption is of the greatest importance.

Interview phase

Mr and Mrs R seemed very depressed when they came for the first consultation. They were obviously disappointed in Anne and in themselves as parents. It bothered them that Anne ‘did not confide’ in them. There seemed to be a barrier between them and this, their only child. The mother cried during the session; Anne's babyish behaviour often annoyed her and she felt this made her unkind, causing her to feel very guilty.

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