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(2011). Correspondence. J. Child Psychother., 37(3):378.

(2011). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 37(3):378



Dear Editors

Re: ‘Concentric circles of containment: a psychodynamic contribution to

working in pupil referral units’, Journal of Child Psychotherapy, Vol. 36, No. 3, December 2010, 225–239

I wanted to pass on some interesting information unknown to me at the time of publishing my article in December last year, in this journal: according to two ACP members who took the trouble to email me about this, the concept and term of ‘concentric circles of containment’ has been used for some time. I apologise for having mistakenly assumed it to be a relatively new way of describing complex emotional containment processes. Andrew Briggs informed me that he had been using it since the late 1990s to describe his way of working in teams working with looked after children. His use of the term originated in conversations with Professor Paolo Valerio at the University of Naples. Judith Edwards subsequently told me that she had used the term in a paper she had published in the Journal of Infant Observation, Volume 9, No 3, December 2006: ‘Making connections: Teaching observational skills to non-clinical students’. In her article, Judith Edwards used the term to conceptualise the concentric circles of the baby held in mother's arms, observed by a student who then brings the observation to a seminar to be thought about and contained by the seminar leader and the group, as well as later on by the observation essay/paper, received by the academic circle around the whole course.

I'd be interested to hear whether there are other Child Psychotherapists who have come across or have used the evocative image of concentric circles of containment, and if so where they have heard it, as it seems such a helpful way of conceptualising a constructive way of intervening in severely dysfunctional and highly complex situations and environments. Both Judith Edwards and I also wondered whether the evocativeness of the image of concentric circles might at least partly derive from it being a frequently occurring pattern in the natural world, to which it thus unconsciously reconnects us.

Yours sincerely

Claudia McLoughlin

22 Approach Rd

London E2 9LY

[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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