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Davenhill, R. Balfour, A. Rustin, M. Blanchard, M. Tress, K. (2003). Looking into Later Life: Psychodynamic Observation and Old Age. Psychoanal. Psychother., 17(3):253-266.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 17(3):253-266

Looking into Later Life: Psychodynamic Observation and Old Age

Rachael Davenhill, Andrew Balfour, Margaret Rustin, Martin Blanchard and Kate Tress

Psychodynamic observation has been used successfully as a core component of training for child and adult psychotherapists within the NHS. This paper will describe the use of the psychodynamic observational method in the multidisciplinary training of health professionals working with older adults.

In taking on the role of receptive observer within the framework provided by the psychodynamic observational method, it is hoped that the observer will come closer to the older person's experience and develop an attuned capacity to see and retain detail. In becoming aware of the emotional impact the interplay between the individual and their environment may produce, participants will learn from their own experience about factors, conscious and unconscious, which can support or impede development and adjustment to transitions in the later part of life. It allows thinking in depth to take place about the experience of the older person as well as the difficulties encountered in the caring role.

The first half of the paper will describe the ‘how to’ of setting up a psychodynamic observation. The second half will describe two observations, one in a more normative setting of an outpatient health clinic for older people, and the other in a nursing home where the older person and staff are confronted with a greater degree of physical and mental deterioration.

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