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Box, S. (2012). The Use of Psychoanalytic Concepts in Work with Families, by Hilary A. Davies, Karnac, 2010.. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 2(2):255-258.

(2012). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 2(2):255-258

Book Reviews

The Use of Psychoanalytic Concepts in Work with Families, by Hilary A. Davies, Karnac, 2010.

Review by:
Sally Box

This interesting book comes at a very opportune time in the development of both psychoanalysis and family therapy. Analysts' contributions in the last fifty years or so, based on clinical practise, have greatly helped the teaching and understanding of the interactions between therapists and their patients, outside the consulting room, as well as in it; and many, given the necessary trained support and encouragement, as the author makes quite clear, can very usefully draw on them.

The cover states that the book is for “all professionals working with families”. It is especially relevant, I suggest, as an introduction for those whose training and work with families is not already based on a psychoanalytic approach; or, in terms of the practical examples, whose psychoanalytic approach has not hitherto included much work with families.

Since the time of Freud, there has been continuing interest in the relevance of psychoanalytic understanding to other areas of life—to the dynamics of groups and society, for instance, and to the insights of the poets and playwrights who had already shown such great understanding of the human mind and relationships. What Freud offered especially was a way of clinically studying the processes, identifying and communicating them so that they could be tested and further developed by other clinicians.

The clinical focus in the early days was on the underlying meaning of individual symptoms and anxieties in terms of the patients' external relationships and childhood experiences. This was revolutionary in itself; and Ms Davies describes some of the key concepts Freud developed and studied. In her interesting chapter on “Therapy with families and family therapy”, she reminds us how social workers, amongst others, drew on these concepts in their work—the whole notion of unconscious processes, the Oedipus conflict, and the tremendous significance of early childhood experiences and the defences against the unresolved conflicts arising from them.

But, as his work developed, Freud had begun to realise how he, as analyst, was being perceived in very specific ways by each patient in the light of such important earlier relationships.


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