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Wolpe, E. (2016). Thoughts about the internalised speaking object: psychoanalytic psychotherapy with children of delayed verbal development. J. Child Psychother., 42(1):30-44.

(2016). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 42(1):30-44

Thoughts about the internalised speaking object: psychoanalytic psychotherapy with children of delayed verbal development

Ehud Wolpe

This paper discusses the meaningful effects of intensive psychoanalytic psychotherapy on language development in children with verbal delay or disorder. Three clinical cases of children aged five to seven are presented; two of these display significant verbal delay and one exhibits unusually high verbal abilities. Following Meltzer, the author explores the concept of the ‘internalised speaking object’ – a good object speaking to the child, which has been internalised. This internal model is essential for the child’s development of language and speech. At times, these children experience this internal object as a persecutory object which must be warded off and avoided. Even more so, when the external object addresses the children verbally, language itself becomes a persecutor and they experience a fear of disintegration. During such times, the therapist must find new and creative ways for communication. The author describes his therapeutic efforts in dealing with these difficulties which stem both from the lack of a reciprocal verbal communication and from the therapist becoming a persecutory object to the child, and demonstrates the manner in which he facilitated gradual shifts in the patient, from an anxious and defensive position into a more relaxed one. These efforts set in motion a process of internalisation of a speaking object by the child and the development of internal language, that is, thinking along with expressive verbal language. The article furnishes some evidence to support the idea that verbal development relies significantly on establishing good, strong and healthy early object relations.

[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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