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MacDonald, S. (2015). The incubator psyche. Psychoanal. Psychother., 29(1):88-106.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 29(1):88-106

The incubator psyche

Shelley MacDonald

This paper considers the emotional life of the infant in the incubator and develops a new psychological theory which is called the ‘incubator psyche’. Theory building is advanced from three main discourses: (1) psychoanalysis, (2) neo-natal nursing and (3) psychology. A case study of Corey, a 7-year-old boy, who had been delivered prematurely, with a hole in his heart, and spent the first 6 weeks of post-natal life in an incubator, is presented to illustrate how aspects of an incubator psyche might be clinically manifest. The concept of an incubator psyche is advanced with reference to a particular kind of second-skin formation (Bick, 1968, The experience of the skin in early object relations, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 49, 484–486). It is proposed that the incubator psyche characterises a client's mental functioning exercised as an environmental sensibility that could be understood in terms of the total transference situation (Klein, 1952, The origins of transference, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 33, 433–438; Joseph, 1985, Transference: The total situation, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 66, 447–454). Implications for practice are considered advocating particular attention to the setting.

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