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Covington, C. (1991). Infant Observation Re-Viewed. J. Anal. Psychol., 36(1):63-76.

(1991). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 36(1):63-76

Infant Observation Re-Viewed

C. Covington, Ph.D., Dip. Crim

This Life's five Windows of the Soul

Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole

And leads you to Believe a Lie

When you see with, not thro', the Eye.

- William Blake, The Everlasting Gospel

Infant observation was first introduced as part of the training in child psychotherapy at the Tavistock Clinic in 1948 by Esther Bick. Since 1960 it has been part of the training curriculum of the Institute of Psychoanalysis for work with adult patients. Michael Fordham invited Gianna Henry from the Tavistock to set up an infant observation group with the Society of Analytical Psychology in 1975. Infant observation has been a requirement of the child analytic training in the Society since then. It has also been offered as an optional part of its adult training more recently. It is being increasingly offered as part of the training curriculum by various psychotherapy and counselling courses in London.

It is widely claimed that the rationale for incorporating infant observation into training curricula is that it contributes to our work with adult patients in two important ways: first, as a training technique to help the prospective analyst/therapist learn an analytic attitude, and secondly, as a method of research which enables us to test and formulate developmental theory.

In this paper I want to take a critical look at infant observation and its contribution to adult analysis. I will examine infant observation under three main headings - as a research tool, as a training tool, and finally as a part of analysis. I should state from the outset that while I think there are good reasons for infant observation, I am not convinced that its contribution lies in the field of research or training. Undoubtedly, infant observation does inform us, in combination with other forms of research, about human development in the first two years of life. In this respect it forms part of our questioning about origins and the influence of the past on the present.

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