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Reichbart, R. (2006). On the Convergence of Folk Belief and Psychopathology: A Demon as Introject in a 12 Year Old African American Boy. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 5(4):459-485.

(2006). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 5(4):459-485

On the Convergence of Folk Belief and Psychopathology: A Demon as Introject in a 12 Year Old African American Boy

Richard Reichbart, Ph.D.

Folk beliefs of Children and their Families from a Variety of cultures are often important to assess and understand during psychoanalytic psychotherapy. They place a responsibility upon the therapist to be open to a different way of organizing experience without labeling it either superstition or severe psychopathology, so that he or she may enter into the experiential world of the child patient. Belief in the devil, and associated folk practices, are much more common than psychoanalytic literature would suggest in patients particularly from socioeconomic and ethnic groups who do not generally enter psychoanalysis but do seek psychoanalytic psychotherapy at clinics or outpatient hospital settings. Here I report upon what appeared to be the beginning formation of an introject of a demon in a 12 year old black boy originally from rural North Carolina during psychoanalytic psychotherapy, and how that introject figured in his internal world and his relationship to his mother who unconsciously encouraged his belief. I attempt to show how psychopathology and folk belief may intersect, and how difficult it may be to disentangle them. Lastly, I suggest that the attitude of the therapist may be crucial to eliciting the family's and the patient's cultural stance and beliefs.

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