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The quiet subversiveness of psychoanalytic thinking in infant-parent psychotherapy.

A/Professor Campbell Paul

We suggest that often the psychoanalytic thinking informing or driving our work in infant-parent psychotherapy may be quietly subversive in a number of ways. This thinking is subversive in that there is a high priority given to working with complexity rather than simplicity, and working with and enacting the immediacy of unconscious fantasy: a process which can be an alarming experience for all. The therapist may act in ways that are unexpected to each participant in the therapy: the infant, the parent and the therapist. We suggest that directly and respectfully engaging the infant and his or her family in communicative play and reverie contributes to developing healthy reflective functioning and a mentalizing stance, through therapeutic action that is best conceptualised not in a linear mode, but owing more to chaos theory. We will illustrate with vignettes from infant, parent and family psychotherapy and group psychotherapy, drawn from videoed casework. In particular we consider a micro analysis of the subversiveness of play in a newly developed toddler-parent psychodynamic time-limited group intervention- what happens when the hungry dinosaur joins the doll in her tea party and splashes in the water, 'overturning' everything.

24-28 August 2011 Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre
Darling Harbour, Australia.
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Campbell Paul
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A/Professor Campbell Paul

A/Professor Campbell Paul is a Consultant Infant and Child Psychiatrist at the Royal Childrens Hospital, Melbourne and Honorary Principal Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne. He and colleagues have established a Graduate Diploma and a Masters Course in Infant and Parent Mental Health. This course developed out of his longstanding experience in paediatric consultation liaison psychiatry and work in infant parent psychotherapy. He has a special interest in the understanding of the inner world of the baby, particularly as it informs therapeutic work with infants and their parents. With colleagues he has developed models of working in therapeutic groups with troubled parents and infants. He has been a consultant psychiatrist at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service has also been involved in the establishment of the Koori Kids Mental Health Network. He has worked with NT child mental health services in Central Australia. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the World Association for Infant Mental Health and he has been a participant in and organizer of a number of local and international conferences and activities in the field of infant mental health.

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