IAAP Children and Adolescent Informational Website

Conferences

In May 2017 the 34th International Workshop on Analytical Psychology in Childhood and Adolescence was held this year in Israel. The theme of the workshop this year was 'The Body in Therapy'

Thirty-six analysts and candidates gathered from all over Europe, Brazil and Israel.

Six participants presented therapeutic issues concerning the main theme. There were a lot of discussions and work all day long, yet time was found to make place for our bodies in dance, trips and laughing together. In sum – we had a great time!

Here is the summary of the presentations -

All six cases presented varying ways of focusing on pathology and development via the concrete and symbolic body in child analysis.  Children are often unable or unwilling to use words to express their pain and suffering.  Traumatic early experiences lead to concretization, repetition of early trauma, and an inability to use the symbolic. The presentations demonstrated a wide variety of modalities used to understand and connect to the patients.  This included play therapy, sand-play therapy, painting, sketching, clay and EMDR techniques. 

Erich Neumann points out the earliest experience of development (both primary reality and seeds of differentiation) are experienced vis-à-vis the body-Self axis.  The baby’s earliest development begins in connection to bodily experiences of feeding, holding, touching and defecation.  Initially there is no sense of separateness. The child is contained in mother in a sort of participation mystique.  Yet, little by little, the bodily experiences also bring differentiation and a sense of ego as well as Self.  This early development leads to safety or lack there-of with the mother, others, and the world at large.   (Differentiation). 

The cases presented included trauma, early abandonment, excess aggression, and provocative and self-destructive behavior.  All six presentations highlighted different ways to connect to child analysis using the body for understanding and treatment.  Children and even teens do not enter the therapy room with an abundance of words.  They do not yet possess the consciousness to actively engage in their own treatment.  Rather the work is acted out in the room with play, art, and transference reactions.  Child analysis often recreates early bodily and sensory experiences in an attempt to escort the child on his or her own way.  The body holds memories. Likewise, the body provides a means of reintegration and forward movement. 

The child analysts in these cases, much like the early mother, demonstrated the struggles to understand the cases “before” and “beyond” words. Thus, the presenters and discussants relied heavily on their own bodily experiences.  Here, sensory experiences, intuition, countertransference and co-transference were crucial in the process.   As an example, one therapist observed a teen kicking her foot back and forth as she talked about her problematic relationship to her mother. The therapist began to mirror this kicking and encouraged the patient to amplify the action, while connecting it to words (consciousness).  Another therapist watched a teen smooth clay in the shape of a female body and experienced a deep sense of sadness/depression (projective identification). 

At times discussants used their own bodily experiences to dialogue with and enhance the case presented. For example, one participant who arrived late to a session providing background information experienced a “wall of words.”  This developed into understanding a compensatory defense for a therapist mired in therapy without enough words.    

It is particularly noteworthy to focus on the feedback session at the end of the conference.  The participants struggled to communicate the three differing group experiences in words sufficient for the room.  As I sat back and took notes some of the words that came to mind were:

  • Fragmentation
  • Dream space
  • Borderline experiences
  • Part-work
  • Split-off feelings
  • Unintegrated aggression

On one hand, as a diverse group of analysts from many countries and multiple languages, we struggled to understand one another well enough.  We fought a bit with our own aggression and felt a bit unheard.  Yet, the experience seemed more indicative of the “hard” work of the body-Self axis and the first stages of life.  The mother attempts to understand, yet words are often not enough.

It is important to note that all throughout the cultural differences enhanced our understanding.   It is also interesting how we came together most deeply when we used our own bodies in movement and sound.  Here we built understanding that went beyond words. All six of the cases demonstrated the necessity for flexibility of the child analyst to connect body to body and body to soul.  

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