The beginning of the group came to life through discussions held about the need to establish a place where therapists of children, adolescents and parents in our Association could partake in observation of the therapeutic act while connecting it to central concepts of self-psychology. In our imagination we saw the group as a learning incubator in which through sharing the clinical activity, both a deepening and widening connection between the therapeutic act and the world of conceptualization and values of self-psychology is enabled. In addition, we thought of a place where young therapists in the start of their career and more experienced therapists can share together a learning experience, thereby enhancing personal and professional development and growth.
Indeed, in the last eight years we are seeing this vision materialize. Over these years a core group of devoted colleagues who continuously attend and contribute to the group have held the framework to which others can join. In the start of every year the opportunity for additional IASPS members to join is open. Group members present clinical cases and we discuss them through the self psychology conceptualization. Just as the group is open to child and adolescent therapists from all mental care professions, so the diversity of populations, emotional difficulties, and the ages in which the group deals with are very wide and diverse. Very frequently senior child therapists in Israel join our discussions and contribute substantially through their observations and thoughts on the presented cases.
The group of child and adolescent therapists meets once a month eight times a year. We all get the opportunity to meet different therapists and are exposed to varied clinical interventions.
Whole rich and fascinating worlds of children-parents-therapists are open to us. As Self Psychology is a psychology of presence, in our group we observe the decisive influence of manners of presence on the formulation and development of the self. When treating children, adolescents and parents, we as therapists get a rare and valuable opportunity to be present and participate in the process of the child’s self-formulation that is happening in real-time. We meet the symptomatic, anxious, raging, obsessive child, and we try to create the tissue of self-selfobject tie which will address the essential self needs of the child that we have disavowed, disconnected, put to sleep, and split off from. We witness different qualities and complexities of the parental foundation upon which the child’s selfhood develops. Working with parents following Anna Ornstein’s model, we also deal with the parental self. We try to identify the level of maturity of the parent so needed for complex parenting missions. We look for the deficiencies and fragmentations of the parents’ selfhood, in order to enable the therapist to be the presence that aspires to respond to these needed functions. The assumption is that the wider the empathic range of the parent, so he/she will be more able to meet his/her child’s open and covert communication in a more empathic and attuned way. The study group provides real-life learning about the variety of manners of presence and the way we can connect to them.
The study group participates in three levels of presence going on in therapy:
1- Parental presence establishing the child’s self
2- The therapist as an empathic presence for the parental self
3- The therapist as a selfobject presence in the therapeutic relationship with the child
The therapist binds and holds the framework and aspires to facilitate and mobilize new processes of development. Through the clinical presentations of therapeutic hours brought to the Forum, we encounter the different ways in which the deficits and needs of parents and children are expressed via play and via selfobject transferences to the therapist. In our discussions it becomes increasingly clear what the self-needs of the parent and child are and which selfobject presence they require.
Over the 8 years of our collaborative work, we have collected a respectable amount of interesting clinical cases and discussions. A sort of “group memory” has been consolidated which contains and stores the developing, deepening, experiential learning space. We hope to succeed in binding these materials into a collection that will be a source for learning which will enrich and be significant for all those interested in the implementation of Self Psychology in child Psychotherpy.
We feel privileged to have created this space for Israeli child and adolescent therapists in the spirit of Self Psychology and are thankful to our Association for the constant backing and support.
Ruth Gat-Dubrov and Taly Hochstadter