on 5 April 2014
I read this shortly after finishing Melanie Klein's "narrative of a Child Analysis", and found the comparison fascinating.
The general approach is similar, with the bulk of the book comprising a detailed account of a series of psychoanalytic sessions with a child. Klein's book describes over 90 individual sessions with a 10 year old boy; in this case, there are just 15 "consultations", underaken over a much longer period, with a 3 - 5 year old girl.
In addition to verbatim excerpts from the sessions, there are Winnicott's brief notes and annotations, plus chunks of letters written to him by the girl's parents in between consultations.
However, this explanatory material is scanty. In this introduction, Winnicott writes -
"I have added comments, but not enough - it is hoped - to prevent the reader from developing a personal view of the material and its evolution"
Unfortunately, the session material itself is fragmentary, sometimes confused and often unclear (endearingly, Winnicott often confesses his own confusion, lapses in concentration and lack of understanding)
This seems reasonable when considering the material itself, but the reader would certainly benefit from greater insight into the author's reasoning, why he felt a particular interpretation was appropriate, or why a particular reading of the process seemed to him to be more accurate than another. In any case, the reader will benefit from having some understanding of Freudian psychoanalytic theory.
As far the actual value of the therapeutic intervention itself goes, this reader found it a real mixed bag. Winnicot's reading of the termination of the process was persuasive, for example. But a lot of the preceding material seems dubious and even troubling. As with Klein, who worked 20 years previously, the therapist's preoccupation with ideas about childhood sexuality and the "Oedipus complex" seemed particularly problematic. Here, "Gabrielle" is playing with a key and a doll. Winnicott introduces this excerpt by saying, "I then made a lot of interpretations".
"Me: If you were a man, you would push your wee-wee into the hole which the skirt covers
Gabrielle: Do you know I am going to have some apple juice in the train? Daddy said we must remember to bring back some for Susan [her baby sister]
Me: You feel a bit frightened to really have me all to yourself. When you have me or Daddy alone, you have the wee-wee going in and making babies, and so you don't have to go at it and get out the stuff that's inside it., so you dont feel so awful about that, but hten you feel Susan will be jealous because it's so good."
Overall, my impression was of an approach that had the feeling of a developing praxis, combining increasing care and respect with an obligation to some outdated and deeply unhelpful theory.
on 15 May 2012
this is a fascinating account about the psychoanalysis of a young child from the age of 2+ to 5; the move from a very disturbed toddler who has to refer herself as "the piggle" to an integrated self-reflective 5 year-old who can use her own name, is easy to read and absorb, unlike many such psychoanalytic texts. Winnicott explores with delicacy the unravelling of the Piggle's problems and should not ever have needed to defend his description of this work as psychoanalysis.. A must read for every Child Psychologist
on 6 January 2012
I purchased this book to assist study for a child pyschology course. Whilst the book itself and interviews with the child are very interesting, the author does not follow up his study of the child with a conclusion of what he believed the root of the emotional problems and why they were manifesting in the ways demonstrated by the child. Although one can make an educated guess as to why this may be, sometimes even educated guesses (especially from one only just embarking on a pyschology course) could be completely wrong! Whilst the book lends an insight into the parental role in the issues the child is facing (and reinforcing that even the most intelligent people do not necessarily make wonderful role models) I found it very frustrating that more "substance" was not provided by the author.