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Miller, J.M. (1993). Resistance in Child Psychoanalysis. J. Child Psychother., 19(1):33-45.

(1993). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 19(1):33-45

Resistance in Child Psychoanalysis

Jill M. Miller


Resistance is an inevitable development in every analysis or psychoanalytic psychotherapy. The intensity and frequency varies, as does the therapist's counter response. It can engender frustration and a feeling that the patient is merely being stubborn or rejecting, especially when it is misunderstood or not seen as an expected component of the analytic process.

By resistance I am referring descriptively to elements in the patient which oppose the psychoanalytic process, specifically the engagement in a process which entails self-observation. The patients I will discuss are ones who have built up defences against self-reflection, rather than ones who do not have this capacity. They were all in five times weekly psychoanalysis, came to treatment and changed.

The concept of resistance was introduced by Freud and has remained a crucial component of psychoanalytic thinking. Following the introduction of the structural theory in 1923, he began to elaborate the idea of resistance. In Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety (1926) he discussed five types of resistance, three of which originated in the ego, one in the id, and one in the superego. A decade later in The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence Anna Freud (1936) expanded the concept. Resistances, she said, were an object of analytic study and provided useful information as to the patient's mental functioning. “Analysis of resistance could be seen as essentially the analysis of those aspects of the patient's defences which entered into and contributed to the pathological outcome of conflicts” (Sandler, Holder and Dare 1973, p.

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