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James, M. (1965). A Cure of Delinquents. The Treatment of Maladjustment: By Robert W. Shields. (London: Heinemann. Pp. 188. 21s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:270-275.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:270-275

A Cure of Delinquents. The Treatment of Maladjustment: By Robert W. Shields. (London: Heinemann. Pp. 188. 21s.)

Review by:
Martin James

This is a clinical work exploring a new aspect of an old theme: that of the place of regression in institutional psychotherapy. We know this theme in education as the choice between structure and discipline on the one hand and regression and 'do as you please' on the other, but by discussing regression in relation to psychotherapeutic technique Shields throws light also on a wider field: that of the theory of the school and of education; of child care generally; of family life, and last but not least psycho-analysis itself.

The school he describes was run for ten years by the L.C.C. In it Dr Shields was the psychotherapist, while a family setting was provided by a resident head and his wife and by house parents. They, like the teachers, had an ego-supportive role in that they tempered their instruction with understanding. Education was thus not 'mere' instruction but included a wider concern for the personality of the children. By all these means the set-up offered a version of a family setting which permitted the kind of regression, and more, that an ordinary family provides normally for its members as well as psycho-analytic psychotherapy. This, like the school set-up, also struck an unusual balance between symptom tolerance and structure, as is shown by the fact that the school was deliberately sited among the boys' homes, so that both running away and return were rather gestures than a disciplinary problem.

The theory which motivated both this therapeutic environment and the psychotherapy was derived from Winnicott's conception of 'The Anti-Social Tendency' (1956).

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