From the Toybox: What's New With the Child and Adolescent Initiative?

By   Denise R. Davis

The IAPSP Child and Adolescent Initiative, chaired by Amy Joelson and myself, Denise Davis, provides an opportunity for members working with children and adolescents to share and expand their use of self psychology in child and adolescent therapy. Equally important is the Child and Adolescent Initiative's mission to help clinicians working exclusively with adults understand the value of treating children and utilizing the knowledge of their child therapist colleagues in their work. Since self psychology is a developmental model which recognizes that developmental longings based in childhood are mobilized in treatment, it is natural that child therapists' experiences deepen the understanding of adult therapists. In addition, almost all of the members of the Child and Adolescent Initiative treat adults as well as children. Updates to this column will keep IAPSP members informed of the activities of the C&A Initiative.

Attempting to integrate the experiences of adult and child therapists, and to highlight the overlap, the C&A Initiative hosted a forum at IAPSP's 2015 Conference, entitled, Working With Children, Adolescents and Adults': How Does One Form of Treatment Inform the Other? Presenters on the panel moderated by Amy Joelson were Denise Davis, Shelley Doctors, Eldad Iddan and Karen Kay. All utilized clinical vignettes to illustrate their responses. My discussion cast Louis Sander's recognition process that transforms patients' locked-in mental states as a remobilization of the capacity to play. Two examples depicted this-one involving a depressed, agitated adult who spontaneously engaged the therapist in a puppet show in the midst of an episode of extreme dysregulation and another of an eight year old girl whose imaginative fairy play with her therapist stretched her notion of what is possible in relationships, leaving her feeling she could finally be understood by another. Shelley Doctors' informal discussion described the relaxed sense that the therapist has when working with adolescents that attunes us to using language that our patients can relate to since they so overtly demand that we allow them to use us in the way that best fits their needs. Eldad Iddan's presentation raised the question of interpretation, when he recalled an early supervisor remarking to him, "Remember, a child's play is an excellent metaphor for his inner experience. Don't spoil it. Remain with and within it. That'll do the job." In the case of the encopretic child with whom he worked, that meant helping the boy carve a trigger out of a gun he was creating to help him have a sense of control, rather than humiliating him with interpretations about his difficulty with control. His empathic grasp told Iddan that actually fashioning the trigger was the most sensitive and useful interpretation. Karen Kay, asserting that child work is FUN, emphasized the intersubjective in her moving presentation of a child struggling with a congenital bowel anomaly. Keenly attuned to the impact of the child's surreptitious deposits of feces in her plants, Karen sensitively responded metaphorically to the gift the child was providing Karen as she invited her therapist into her painful world.

The Child and Adolescent Initiative is a fun, playful, thoughtful group of clinicians who welcome all who are interested to join our list serve. Future activities include an online journal club as well as another interactive panel at the Boston IAPSP Conference in October 2016.

Denise Davis, L.C.S.W. is in private practice in Highland Park, Il where she sees children, adolescents, adults and couples and supervises and runs study groups. She is an instructor in The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration's Professional Development Program and also presented at the Illinois Society for Clinical Social Work's Jane Roiter Seminar. Denise Davis is a member of the Midwest Self Psychology Study Group, the co-chair of International Association for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology's (IAPSP) Child and Adolescent Initiative and a member of IAPSP's Advisory Board. Denise Davis has been a presenter at IAPSP Conferences and has been a discussant for IAPSP's online journal club. She is the author of Moments of Meeting: A Self Psychological Approach published in the International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology and is authoring a chapter in a forthcoming book entitled Moments of Meeting to be published by the Routledge Relational Perspective Series in Fall 2016.

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