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Brafman, A.H. (1990). Closely Observed Infants edited by Michael and Margaret Rustin. Published by Duckworth, 1990; 221 pages; £10.95 paperback.. Brit. J. Psychother., 7(2):196-198.

(1990). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 7(2):196-198

Closely Observed Infants edited by Michael and Margaret Rustin. Published by Duckworth, 1990; 221 pages; £10.95 paperback.

Review by:
A H Brafman

It is quite common nowadays to discover that a large number of adults find that their offspring or their child clients constitute the first instance of their coming close to a child. This may be due to changes in the structure of the family or to modern life in bigger connurbations but, whatever the cause, it is not rare to find professionals with a thorough knowledge of what various schools postulate as the early stages of a child's emotional development, who nevertheless feel baffled and ill-at-ease when they have to deal with a real child. Stern (1985) put forward the notion of the ‘conceptual child’ to describe this construct with which every psychology or biology student is familiar, but which is dramatically different from a real, live child.

For some years now, Infant Observation has been part of the curriculum of several training courses devoted to a psychodynamic approach to the treatment of children and adults. This is a welcome development in that it enables (forces?) students to have a close, intimate contact with real children and parents before they embark on the study of the concepts that aim to explain their characteristics and mutual influences. Furthermore, this exercise leads the student to experience the complexity of the role of observer: particularly when he/she is moving on to learn about transference and counter-transference and the debate about the analyst/therapist as mirror or otherwise, the weekly visits to a family constitute a challenge for him/her to learn how to share without intruding, how to observe without becoming detached, how to acknowledge and show feelings without acting on prejudice.

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