Students who attend this course will gain direct experiential understanding of the origins of emotional, mental and relational life through the observation of an infant and his or her caregiver. This course helps students become receptive observers, a vital skill in psychoanalytic work.
Esther Bick developed this method of infant observation, which is both objective and rooted in emotional experience. First begun in 1948 at the Tavistock Clinic in London, some experience of infant observation has become a part of most British training in child therapy and psychoanalysis. In 1997, the Anni Bergman Parent Infant Training Program instituted a course of study that included an infant observation course based on the Tavistock model and, more loosely, on the research protocol developed by Mahler and her associates. This course is being offered in collaboration with the Anni Bergman Parent Infant Training Program.
With the help of the instructor and support of the class, each student locates an infant. The family is asked to commit to a year-long observation. The observer then visits the family for an hour every week, usually at the same time. Maintaining a background stance of friendly attentiveness, the observer takes in whatever is happening in the ordinary life of a baby and his or her caregiver(s). Notes jotted down as soon as possible after the observation, and fleshed out later, are presented on a rotating basis. In depth class discussions allow students to more fully comprehend what they are observing, and the sometimes powerful feelings evoked by the experience.
Instructed to proceed as they would normally, families soon adapt to the presence of a regular visitor who is interested in them and their baby. Although the observer does not offer advice or comments, the observer’s presence and containing stance are usually experienced as friendly and supportive in ways that have a positive effect on the caregiver and the infant.
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