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Hoffman, L. (2020). How Can I Help You? Dimensional versus Categorical Distinctions in the Assessment for Child Analysis and Child Psychotherapy. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 19(1):1-15.

(2020). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 19(1):1-15


How Can I Help You? Dimensional versus Categorical Distinctions in the Assessment for Child Analysis and Child Psychotherapy

Leon Hoffman, M.D.

This paper describes the process of a psychoanalytically-informed or a psychodynamic diagnostic assessment with children, contrasting it with a DSM-like diagnostic process. The importance of understanding and sensitively addressing the experience of parents when they bring their child to a professional for help is highlighted. The promotion of a psychoanalytic atmosphere, the unique contribution of a child analyst or psychodynamic clinician to the general mental health field, is an approach which promotes the development of a therapeutic alliance. This allows both parents and children to express their underlying issues as openly as possible. In addition to the basic assumptions of psychoanalysis (the ubiquity of unconscious mental activity and the impact of the past on the present/the developmental perspective), several factors are crucial to bear in mind: the importance of understanding the nature of the child’s (and the parent’s) emotions, emotion regulation, development of mental representations of self and other, and their conflicts and defense mechanisms. Potential therapeutic approaches are highlighted, including stressing the need to empirically study how decisions are made by a mental health provider when moving from assessment to treatment recommendation.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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