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Bronstein, C. Flanders, S. (1998). The Development of a Therapeutic Space in a First Contact with Adolescents. J. Child Psychother., 24(1):5-36.

(1998). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 24(1):5-36

The Development of a Therapeutic Space in a First Contact with Adolescents

Catalina Bronstein and Sara Flanders

This paper is based on work developed at a walk-in centre for adolescents. Our initial approach is one which involves, on the one hand, assessing the adolescent's difficulties and, on the other, encouraging the development of a therapeutic experience. Interviewing, in form and intent, aims to address the adolescent's anxieties about needing help and to counter the omnipotent adolescent defences with the establishment of a therapeutic space and the development of commitment to its use. It provides an experience of containment through understanding and opens the possibility of the creation of a space for thinking. Unless there is some development in this capacity, and some understanding of the anxieties that made the adolescent ask for help, there is little prospect of the adolescent being able to sustain ongoing psychotherapy or psychoanalysis.

The first part of this paper, by the first author, focuses on the theoretical foundations of this work and also explores the crucial role that the institution has in this initial contact with adolescents. The second part, by the second author, provides a more detailed look at the interviewing of two adolescents who, with their very different character structures and histories, show anxiety about therapy or analysis that is specific to adolescent experience, particularly fears of being passively overwhelmed due to the threatened loss of an omnipotent defence which had been established to cope with adolescent change.

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