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Wilkinson, S. Hough, G. (1996). Lie as Narrative Truth in Abused Adopted Adolescents. Psychoanal. St. Child, 51:580-596.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 51:580-596

Lie as Narrative Truth in Abused Adopted Adolescents

Sallye Wilkinson, Ph.D. and George Hough, Ph.D.

Two case examples of abused adopted adolescents are discussed to highlight tension within the treatment relationship when the therapist is expected to accept without question a clearly unbelievable story. These examples illustrate how the lies of such youths can function as narrative truth. The unbelievable tales that emerge in the therapeutic work effectively alter the adolescents’ perceptions about the perplexing loss of continuity, both internal and external, that occurred when they were removed from their homes. Characters in the stories represent fragmented self-and object-representations as victim, abuser, rescuer, and passive onlooker. Counterparts to the patient as victim, abuser, rescuer, and passive onlooker can be recognized in the therapist’s subjective responses. If the therapist can use countertransference to inform an understanding of the treatment process, an appreciation emerges that the truth of the lie is in its impact. Decisions about how to intervene can then be crafted. The second separation-individuation intrinsic to adolescent development is understood to provide a ripe opportunity for this working-through process.

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