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Mitrani, T. (1997). Correspondence. J. Child Psychother., 23(1):165-172.

(1997). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 23(1):165-172


Theodore Mitrani

Letter to the editors from Theodore Mitrani, PhD, California, USA A memorial tribute to Frances Tustin

I am sending you an account of the memorial tribute to Frances Tustin which took place on 21 October 1995 at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Monica, California and which I hope will be of interest to your readers. Initiated and co-ordinated by Dr Judith Mitrani, the conference was sponsored by the Psychoanalytic Center of California Continuing Education Committee and ably introduced and moderated by PCC President Elect John Lundgren, MD. The audience of over ninety mental health workers was addressed by six speakers, all of whom had a direct connection with Mrs Tustin. The hall where the meeting took place was decorated with poster portraits of Tustin in her youth at the beginning of her career, and up to the month before her death. A video of her BBC interview with Alexander Newman of the Squiggle Foundation was playing continuously at the reception table, where copies of all of her books, generously donated for the occasion by her publishers, Karnac and Routledge, were available for sale to participants.

The first presenter, James Grotstein, MD, attempted to locate Tustin's contribution in the context of contemporary psychoanalytic and psychiatric disciplines. Following a short biographical note, some warm reminiscences about his encounter with Mrs Tustin in Amersham and a number of subsequent phone discussions with her, he proceeded to give a critique of her professional contributions.

Dr Grotstein suggested that Tustin's work was essentially influenced by three psychoanalytic thinkers: Esther Bick and John Bowlby, who were her main instructors in her training years in the Tavistock, and Wilfred Bion, her analyst. Grotstein stated that Tustin's work was an outgrowth of Bick's conceptualization of the ‘second skin’ even though ultimately ‘she was an external objectivist or rehabilitationist, and sided with the object-relations views of Bowlby’. At the same time Grotstein said that it was Bion's theory of thinking which permeated Tustin's work, even though she had openly claimed ‘not to have understood Bion's writings’.

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