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Neubauer, P.B. (1994). The Playground of Psychoanalytic Therapy: Jean Sanville. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1991, xx + 288 pp., $36.00 (hardcover). Psychoanal. Psychol., 11(3):407-408.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 11(3):407-408

The Playground of Psychoanalytic Therapy: Jean Sanville. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1991, xx + 288 pp., $36.00 (hardcover)

Review by:
Peter B. Neubauer, M.D.

If one expects this book to explore the role of play in psychoanalytic therapy, then one has not paid attention to the title. Indeed, Sanville studies psychoanalytic therapy and uses play and playing as the focal point, the pivotal organizing concept. This book is extraordinarily rich, for it encompasses all that Sanville has learned from her patients and from psychoanalytic theory, and she has organized it to discuss significant present-day issues. She belongs to the group of analysts who feel secure enough to take from the tradition of psychoanalytic work what appears useful while attempting to integrate the past with new theories to modify psychoanalytic intervention.

The chapters of her book are an indication of the scope of her interests. I mention only a few: “Meaning Making and Playing in Infancy,” “Playgrounds for Transference and Countertransference,” “The Scene: Space and Time of the Therapeutic Playground,” and “The Psychomythology of Everyday Life.”

She reviews the theory of psychoanalytic development and the dynamics of clinical intervention, and she attempts to integrate the contribution of her favorite authors, such as Winnicott, Stern, Kohut, and as always, Freud. Thus, the book is a textbook of Sanville's vast theoretical clinical experiences with the motive to document that play is the essential organizing and integrating mental activity. She leans on Winnicott's understanding of play as the place where external and internal events meet and where the creative processes takes place. Therefore, she goes beyond the generally accepted proposition that play attempts to resolve conflicts and to achieve, by transforming passivity into activity, a psychic condition beneficial for developmental progression.


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