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Salomonsson, B. (2017). The Function of Language in Parent-Infant Psychotherapy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(6):1597-1618.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(6):1597-1618

The Function of Language in Parent-Infant Psychotherapy

Björn Salomonsson

(Accepted for publication 14 January 2017)

Parent-infant psychotherapy, a rather new field in psychoanalysis, raises questions of how to conceptualize the clinical process. Previous publications have used semiotic concepts to account for the therapist's non-verbal communication and investigated the countertransference, including what the baby might grasp of its variations. The present paper focuses on another argument for using verbal interventions to a baby in therapy; they present him with a symbolic order that differs from that of the parent. The qualitative difference between the parent's and the analyst's address is conceptualized by Dolto's term parler vrai. The therapeutic leverage is not the analytic interventions' lexical content but their message that words can be used to expose conflicts. Thereby, one can transform warded-off desires into demands that can be negotiated with one's objects. The reasons why this address catches the baby's attention are discussed. A prerequisite for such attention is that the infant brain is prewired for perceiving words as a special communicative mode. Relevant neuroscientific research is reviewed in regard to this question. The presentation relies on concepts by Dolto, Lacan and Winnicott and findings from neuroscience and developmental psychology. It also briefly discusses Chomsky's linguistic concepts in relation to these therapies.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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