Childhood and parenting – Psychoanalytic perspectives

Event overview

Childhood and parenting – Psychoanalytic perspectives

Offering a space for distress and anxiety to be shared is the essence of child psychotherapy practice. The space is both the physical space of the consulting room, with its provision for play and non-verbal communication as well as talking, but also the space in the mind of the therapist who is there to learn what is troubling the young person. Two minds meeting is the starting point, and the skill of the therapist lies in her openness to the unconscious preoccupations the child reveals as well as her responsiveness to what is directly expressed.

Margaret Rustin will describe initial encounters with children and adolescents of different ages, and very different life experiences, with whom a conversation could be initiated. This is what child psychotherapy aims to set in motion, a chance for a child to feel understood, to feel the relief that this gives, and to become interested in understanding him or herself. Understanding ourselves is a life-long task and there is a special privilege in being able to contribute to the development of the next generation in this way.

Andrew Balfour will then discuss his paper and explore the link between parenting difficulties and couple relationship issues in psychotherapeutic work with parental couples. The paper looks at the social policy context of couple psychotherapy and the resistances it can evoke, which has led to an emphasis on ‘parenting’ rather than ‘couple’ interventions in the historic development of family service provision in the UK.

Some developmental challenges facing couples who are parents are then discussed, focussing on a clinical case and drawing on the concepts of shared unconscious phantasy and enactment in the analytic session, to elucidate defensive and developmental possibilities of working at the interface between ‘parenting’ and ‘partnering’.

For 100 years, the Tavistock and Portman has proudly been at the forefront of exploring mental health and wellbeing. From attachment theory and infant observation, to applying psychoanalytic and systemic approaches in varied settings, our ideas have led to changes in care, education, how organisations work and beyond.

Our centenary festival will celebrate our history and explore contemporary issues in relation to identity, relationships and society. It will consider how we continue to draw on our heritage to provide valuable responses to contemporary and future problems from the perspective of equality and inclusion.

“For decades, the Tavistock’s work has helped shape how we see ourselves, as persons and as a society. Much thinking that has entered the mainstream emerged from its challenging, interdisciplinary research and practice.”

Dame Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize winner


Margaret Rustin, Honorary Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust

Andrew Balfour, Chief Executive, Tavistock Relationships


6 to 7:30pm, Friday 6 November 2020



Book your free place on Eventbrite.

6 November 2020 18:00 to 19:30