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Salzberger, I. (1963). Resistance in Treatment as A Means of Avoiding Inner Conflict. J. Child Psychother., 1(1):26-34.

(1963). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 1(1):26-34

Resistance in Treatment as A Means of Avoiding Inner Conflict

Isca Salzberger

Theoretical discussion of the subject will be followed in this paper by clinical material.

When considering resistance in treatment, examples of resistant behaviour readily come to mind. A child may refuse to stay in the treatment room, miss appointments, or actually threaten to break off treatment; he may make verbal or physical attacks on us or the play-room furniture. Or he resists in more subtle ways, such as “jamming” interpretations, withdrawing from the therapist, or erecting a mental brick wall which does not allow the interpretations to penetrate. This kind of behaviour must be differentiated from that of children who can only communicate the infantile nature of their relationship to the therapist by bodily posture or little gestures, but show by changes in their silent communication that the interpretations bring about some shift in their feelings.

What then do we mean by resistance? Looking at the various manifestations of resistant behaviour, they seem to fall into three categories; i.e. fight, flight, and the erecting of a barrier. These we recognise as ways in which we normally react to situations of danger coming from the outside, as e.g. in times of war. If we decide to fight openly, we attack, just like our children attack us with words and actions. We may, on the other hand, decide to mislead the enemy by staging a manoeuvre designed to distract his attention from the main target; or we may give in outwardly but remain fighting in an underground resistance movement which leaves the enemy feeling frightened and impotent.

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