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Balbernie, R. (1988). Failing to Connect - Failing to Contain. Brit. J. Psychother., 5(2):149-158.

(1988). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 5(2):149-158

Failing to Connect - Failing to Contain

Robin Balbernie

Failure is important but usually unpublicised. I mishandled a case when accident compounded inexperience, so it can only be retrieved here: a reparative fantasy. Since here were only four sessions they can be reported in detail, with the added perspective of hindsight. The patient was a seventeen-year-old adolescent called Dean diagnosed as psychotic. Psychotherapy was the only form of intervention not already tried. His life was dominated by a compulsion to spin or roll on the floor. He was withdrawn and apathetic with occasional bouts of violence. When he first saw me he had just been expelled from a special Adolescent Unit after trying to strangle a nurse. There was a long history of contact with the family which I shall return to later. We had a brief meeting before our first session to set up a contract, so he had already described ‘the movements’ which he had to do in order to avoid becoming ill.

After entering my room he shambled around for a while before slumping down in a chair, facing me but with downcast eyes and looking sullen. I asked how he had been since last week and this led to him talking of what fills his time. Mostly just hanging around the house and watching television, and we also got on to his lack of ambition, or ideas as to alternative behaviour. He had brightened up when challenged before so I said it sounded almost as if he wished to avoid the future. He replied something about not counting chickens until hatched, since his habit of ‘twisting’ meant he could not begin to think about work.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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