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Auestad, A. (1992). I Am Father's Baby - You Can Have the Turtle - Psychotherapy in a Family Context. J. Child Psychother., 18(1):57-74.

(1992). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 18(1):57-74

I Am Father's Baby - You Can Have the Turtle - Psychotherapy in a Family Context

Anne-Marie Auestad


In this paper I intend to describe 4 year old Peter and his adoptive family in their struggle to function together as a family unit.

We (the two therapists - Anne-Marie Auestad and Anne Svestad - in the following text called AMA and AS) met Peter and his adoptive parents two years after the arrival in his new home in Norway, and were introduced to Peter's difficulties in attaching to his new mother. Peter seemed unable to integrate his past and present lives, showing us a self-sufficient facade, whilst striving to hide his needy, frustrated and furious infant self. In an attempt to cope with his previous separation experiences, he rejected his new mother, completely assigning all caring functions to his father, thus splitting his inner and outer objects into “good” and “bad”.

We were able to observe how unexpressed fantasies and emotions in the child and the parents had created vicious circles blocking nurturing interaction between mother and child.

Our main task was to develop communication and integration. As all family members suffered from feeling cut off in different ways and on different levels of experience, our aim was to bring them together.

We therefore felt it important to work in a family context. Within the family sessions, Peter was invited to express himself with toys and words. An intense process developed, in which Peter wholeheartedly displayed his emotions and fantasies, assigning the role of the rejecting biological mother to the author (AMA) who interpreted his symbolic play activity, in the attempt to bring past and present together.

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