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

By   Denise R. Davis

The Child and Adolescent Initiative 2016-2017

IAPSP's Child and Adolescent Initiative, again hosted an exciting panel at IAPSP's 2016 Boston Conference. The international panel, entitled "Critical Moments at Crucial Developmental Times" brought a child and adolescent treatment perspective to the Conference's overall theme of "Critical Clinical Moments". The panel, featured Taly Hochstadter, MA from Israel presenting the case of a young adolescent, Christa Paulinz, MA MEd from Austria presenting a child case, Anna Ornstein, M.D. of Boston discussing both cases and Amy Joelson, L.C.S.W. from New York moderating the panel. Since so many of us have relied on Anna's wise guidance about child and parent treatment, the room was filled beyond capacity with eager participants.

Taly presented her skillful work with Nimi, a 13 year old boy who expressed his emotional needs through aggressive, sometimes violent complaints about disappointing food available to him. Through both verbatim process and description, Taly illustrated the experience with Nimi and his parents that expanded his parents' empathic understanding of Nimi and facilitated Nimi's capacity to express his needs more directly. In discussing the case Anna distinguished between therapists' provision of parent guidance and the therapist's important efforts to make contact with the parents' subjective experiences in order to evoke the parents' empathy toward their child. Taly connected with Nimi's struggling parents by imagining her way into their subjective experience, much as Anna was suggesting. Taly's empathic connection with the parents strengthened them, helping them to see beyond their own internal experiences and resonate with Nimi's loneliness.

Christa presented her touching work with Adrian, a depressed and anxious seven year old who initially withdrew from Christa's attempts at empathic understanding and avoided engagement in play with her until one surprising day when Adrian shyly initiates a game of filling and throwing water balloons with Christa. Christa responds with robust, balloon-slinging enthusiasm as the pair navigate their way towards a warm and playful communication, developing what Christa calls "a common language that helped us deal with all the issues important for his temporary world." The water balloon play followed a session in which Christa invited Adrian to bring in his favorite computer game. Anna's discussion of Christa's work focused on the need to actively engage the child patient in a verbal or play process that facilitates understanding of the motivation of symptomatic behavior rather than simply forming an attachment. Anna suggested that Christa's desire to enter Adrian's world (the computer game), as well as her perseverant determination to understand him, facilitated the therapeutic engagement. We look forward to hosting another exciting panel at the 2017 IAPSP Chicago Conference, hopefully in a larger room!

The Child and Adolescent Initiative invites both child and adult therapists to join our upcoming online journal club that runs from February 13-26, 2017. The journal club will focus on Anna Ornstein's article, "Why Kohut's Ideas Will Endure: The Contributions of Self Psychology to the Treatment of Children and to the Practice of Psychotherapy" (IJPSP, Vol. 10, 2015) Discussants for the journal club are Shelley Doctors (past president IAPSP), Eldad Iddan (IAPSP president) and Andrean Harms (Director of the Vienna Circle). We are delighted that Anna Ornstein will participate in the discussion as well. I look forward to moderating what promises to be a lively and decidedly clinical online conversation.

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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