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Brady, M.T. (2018). Field Theory in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis: Understanding and Reacting to Unexpected Developments By Elena Molinari London and New York: Routledge, 2017; 161 pp.. Fort Da, 24(2):82-89.

(2018). Fort Da, 24(2):82-89

Reviews: Book Review Essay

Field Theory in Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis: Understanding and Reacting to Unexpected Developments By Elena Molinari London and New York: Routledge, 2017; 161 pp.

Review by:
Mary T. Brady, Ph.D.

The simplest way I judge a psychoanalytic book is whether, having read it, I feel like a better analyst. That is the experience I have reading this book. I feel accompanied in the hard work of child therapy/analysis by Elena Molinari's creativity, emotional availability, and remarkably imaginative use of the visual arts. I will relate an extended piece of her clinical work to convey these qualities.

Molinari describes her seven-year analysis of a boy (starting at age four) with marked relational withdrawal (Chapter 8, “Action Across Emptiness”). For the first year of analysis, Giulio scribbled and his analyst felt that she did not exist. Giulio then became interested in the electrical wires in the office. While this might seem like an opportunity to link things together and make metaphoric meaning, Molinari relates that Giulio was alternately unaffected or disorganized if she commented outside of a sort of prescribed script. Molinari thought her own despair at reaching Giulio reflected his sense of inability to reach an object. Molinari notes how, for normal children, repetition is an effort to master the gap with the object, while for an autistic child, “(T)here is no space that defines the self, there is no external space to cross, and the ensuing hopelessness is shared between patient and analyst” (p. 137).

In this context, Giulio spends a session pouring water from one container to another, seemingly oblivious to his analyst. Molinari comments, “I felt the growing desire to sink into passivity, mixed with painful powerlessness” (p. 137). Giulio accidentally drips water on the floor and then pours a whole glass of water on the floor. Molinari unintentionally steps into the puddle.

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