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Gilmore, K. (2009). The status of developmental curriculum in North American psychoanalysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(4):885-904.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(4):885-904

The status of developmental curriculum in North American psychoanalysis

Karen Gilmore

Writing from the perspective of a North American psychoanalyst and Director of the Child Division of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, I find myself at a disadvantage in relation to the two previous contributors to this series (de Litvan, 2007; Waddell, 2006). As representatives, respectively, of the British experience of immersion in infant observation developed by Esther Bick and enhanced by the ideas of Wilfred Bion (Waddell) and of the integration of that tradition of observation with cutting edge research by a South American researcher/clinician (de Litvan), these two authors have highlighted the importance of infant observation for psychoanalysis from vantage points ranging from its power in conveying unconscious mental content to its importance as a portal to communication with other scientific endeavors. Both writers emphasize its educational role as a most fundamental exposure to profound and universal human experience, as a window into the creation of “emotional meaning and thought” (Waddell, 2006, p. 1103), and, especially for de Litvan, as a crucial point of contact with advances in related sciences. In all these ways, my rather typical educational experience as a North American (or, more specifically, United States) analyst is relatively impoverished as there has been no sustained tradition of infant observation in the institutes of the American Psychoanalytic Association and, even where observational methods have taken hold (as in some institutes, especially those with infancy programs, and in universities), there is rarely the rigor or immersion of the traditional Tavistock methodology.

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