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Miller, L. (1999). Infant Observation as a Precursor of Clinical Training. Psychoanal. Inq., 19(2):142-145.

(1999). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 19(2):142-145

Infant Observation as a Precursor of Clinical Training

Lisa Miller, M.A.

The Practice of Infant Observation

INFANT OBSERVATION, AS INSTITUTED IN THE CHILD PSYCHOTHERAPY training at the Tavistock by Esther Bick, is a discipline that develops the intellectual and emotional muscle of the observer. The practice is this: every week, by carefully negotiated prearrangement, a trainee visits a family at a regular time to observe a baby in the context of its family. There is usually at least one preliminary visit before the baby is born; after the birth, the observations begin as soon as possible and continue until the child is 2 years old. The observer has to find a place in the family: friendly, but neutral, he or she must discover by trial and error a way in which to watch the baby growing up in the family context. Avoiding, on one hand, premature intimacy and the perils of intrusiveness and, on the other, the danger of being thought chilly and unhelpful can be a difficult task. Observers are there by courtesy of the families, and if parents—perhaps especially mothers in the earliest weeks—are often glad to find someone as interested in the babies as they are they are themselves, it is always up to observers to remember that they are there to learn.

The learning experience can prove to be a formative one. Each observation lasts an hour, and after the hour the observer leaves to write up as soon as possible a detailed account of the observation.

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