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Rusbridger, R. (1989). Astor, J. (London). ‘A conversation with Dr Michael Fordham.’ Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 14, 1988.. J. Anal. Psychol., 34(3):285.

(1989). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 34(3):285

Astor, J. (London). ‘A conversation with Dr Michael Fordham.’ Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 14, 1988.

Review by:
Richard Rusbridger

Edited by:
Christopher Perry

This interview with Michael Fordham concentrates on the emergence and development of his interest in the child's sense of self, and in the treatment of children in psychotherapy. This interest had its roots in his own childhood, which he describes as ‘problematic in a number of ways’, and was developed both in the course of working in a child guidance clinic and through his later, wartime, experience of being responsible for hostels for evacuees and difficult children.

Astor in his introduction defines Fordham's revolutionary contribution to Jungian thinking as his discovery that individuation began in childhood, corresponding to what Klein described as the depressive position, but as re-emerging only years later after being submerged during the period of socialisation through education. The way in which Fordham discovered for himself the importance and liveliness of children's experience parallels this description strikingly. Initially, he says, the Jungian milieu in which he was working was unreceptive to his ideas about the reality and importance of the child's physical relation to its mother, preferring to think of the child in the adult symbolically, and of the actual child very little. He describes how he found confirmation for his conviction about the vividness of the child's experience in his own experiences of analysis, in his work with psychotic children, and, importantly, in Klein's work. However, he distinguishes his view of the development of the child's inner world from that of Klein. But he does not differentiate his view from Freud's, or mention Jung's own writing about the mother-child relationship. This would, perhaps, have been beyond the scope of such an interview.

This is an interesting and candid account of the growth of Fordham's interest in children, an interest that has been of great importance both in the founding of a Jungian training in child analysis and in introducing a number of productive concepts in British Jungian thinking. It complements Fordham's other recent interviews, with Karl Figlio, published in Free Associations (No. 12, 1988, London), where he speaks again of his work with children, but also of his work with adults, of his contact with Donald Meltzer, and of his growing interest in the connections between Jungian thinking and that of Klein, Bion and Meltzer.

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