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Kohon, V. (2016). Clinical commentary by Valli Kohon, child and adolescent psychotherapist. J. Child Psychother., 42(3):349-351.

(2016). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 42(3):349-351

Clinical commentary by Valli Kohon, child and adolescent psychotherapist

Valli Kohon

Clinical commentary by Valli Kohon, child and adolescent psychotherapist

Charlie’s background is of things being ‘done’: taking drugs, sexual activity, or violence, forms of expression using the body rather than thought and speech. Parents who use drugs, alcohol and sex to stoke, satisfy, or numb desires, or resort to violence to discharge frustration and hostile feelings lack much capacity to think about or contain them. A child exposed to this and then suffering the suicide of his mother, plus the erratic care provided by his father is bound to have great difficulty in using his mind to process what is happening to him.

At 13, Charlie hovers between childhood and adolescence, oscillating between the wordlessness of infancy and the capacity to verbalise thoughts and feelings. What sort of analytic language is created in his therapy and made available for an emotional vocabulary to emerge?

The therapist’s clinical dilemma lies in how to talk to the patient. It might not be easy to decide who to address: a boy at the age of puberty or a toddler? (The therapist notes the child’s large feet and wonders if he has grown.) The therapist’s anxiety about the sexual is noticeable – he/she is struggling with how to put any of this into words. There are elements that strike contradictory chords: in the background a ‘sexual assault’ is mentioned, allegedly perpetrated by Charlie on his mother. What sort of action on a child’s part could be described as a ‘sexual assault?’ The term is highly charged; possibly adult behaviours are being attributed to a child.

[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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