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Terradas, M.M. Domon-Archambault, V. Drieu, D. (2020). Clinical Assessment of Prementalizing Modes of Psychic Functioning in Children and Their Parents in the Context of Trauma. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 19(1):25-41.

(2020). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 19(1):25-41

Clinical Assessment of Prementalizing Modes of Psychic Functioning in Children and Their Parents in the Context of Trauma

Miguel M. Terradas, Ph.D., Vincent Domon-Archambault, D.Ps. and Didier Drieu, Ph.D.

As psychoanalytic psychotherapy for children depends on their capacity to mentalize, it is essential to integrate this dimension in their psychological assessment. Mentalization refers to the capacity to identify and comprehend the mental states (feelings, thoughts and intentions) underlying and explaining one’s own behaviors and those of others. This vital ability, which develops during the first five or six years of life in the context of a secure parent-child attachment, is often impaired in children subjected to neglect and maltreatment. Based on rigorous and systematic clinical observations made in youth protection and child psychiatry services, the authors suggest that the children in these settings, along with their parents, frequently present a prementalizing mode of psychic functioning. Further, the authors propose operationalizing the teleological, psychic equivalence, and pretend modes as they might be observed in older children and their parents. To this end, they begin by identifying behaviors, attitudes, and relational patterns potentially linked to each of these modes within a theoretical framework. Next, they describe the characteristics of these children’s narratives, play, and artistic productions. Lastly, three clinical vignettes are used to illustrate how the prementalizing modes are manifested. The results of this clinical assessment can guide the choice of techniques to be used in child psychotherapy.

[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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