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Dufton, K. (2004). Introduction. Psychoanal. Psychother., 18:111-124.

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(2004). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 18(1):111-124


Kate Dufton

This paper explores the meaning of the pregnancy of the therapist as a challenge to the maintenance of the setting for therapy. The patient I shall describe was born ‘black’ in a ‘white’ family and was thus a challenge to her father's sense of paternity and her parents as a couple. She was the visual evidence of an infidelity. The problem had been denied in various ways, going as far as the attempt to deny her very existence. The therapist's pregnancy signified a betrayal of the ideal of a stable setting which was compounded by an earlier absence through illness. This ‘breaking of rules or promises’ was then the setting for a re-working of the patient's story.

Setting, it is argued, can helpfully be seen as the mental space created by the partnership within the therapist between maternal and paternal relating to the ‘baby’ of the therapy. This enables a sense of negotiation and relationship in the creation of setting, which can include disruptions and other babies. At the same time the therapy had to work with a fundamental issue of illegitimacy or lack of belonging and the therapist's response to this. The ‘rules’ of setting are a means to ensure a place to belong or attach to, but this work emphasized ‘setting’ and belonging as issues of relationship supported and enabled by our rules of engagement, but not reducible to them.

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