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Infant Observation I
December 1, 2023 @ 1:45 pm - 3:15 pm, Wyman Classroom
Second Year Adult Psychoanalytic Training (APT)
2023-24, 2nd Trimester — Fridays, 1:45-3:15pm
Sue Neell Carlson, MA
Charlotte Malkmus, MA LMHC
Janet Soeprono, MD
Infant observation supports the growth of an analyst’s ability to recognize and emotionally metabolize infantile aspects of the patient-analyst dynamic in the treatment situation. Nuanced observation, that is, seeing and remaining curious about what is unfolding, rather than looking for what one expects or hopes to see, is an essential skill for psychoanalysts. This class will stimulate and foster the development of an observing mind.
Observing an infant-primary caregiver(s), weekly, from birth to one year, allows for a unique opportunity to learn about early child development in real time. The evolution of the earliest relationships with parents, siblings and others can be seen in all their complexity and unique variety. The baby’s experiences– its efforts to hold itself together, to develop trust, to struggle with instinctual responses to both good and bad objects in their most rudimentary forms, and to develop symbols, can all be seen. Growth of the infant’s internal world can be inferred in the process.
Infant observation is a time-consuming and, at times, profoundly disturbing experience. Observers are immersed in the affective experience of the baby and caregiver within a frame that promotes reflection – rather than action. Therefore, our group process is an essential class component, a vehicle for mutual support and additional learning.
Each of you will find a family to observe with a baby whose birth will occur near the beginning our class meetings in September. Ideally, you will meet with the parent(s) at least once prior to the delivery/adoption of the infant. At that first meeting, explain the process and listen carefully to what the caregivers share about their fantasies and experiences as they prepare for the baby’s arrival.
Please write a summary of this initial contact with the family to share with the class.
Once the baby is born/adopted, you will observe the baby for one hour each week and continue with weekly write-ups that should include what you saw, heard and felt in as detailed manner as possible. We will create a shared dropbox for the class. Please save a copy of each week’s process summary to the dropbox before class. These summaries are confidential and are not to be shared outside of the group or with the family.
At the top of each note, please include:
- Your Name
- Date of Observation
- Observation Number
- Baby’s birth date and age in weeks/months at time of observation session
In addition to the weekly summaries, you will each prepare a final paper to be presented in class, approximately three pages in length, which summarizes what you learned from the observation and class experience.
September 2023 – June 2024
Through the experience of observing, writing about and discussing a baby and caregiver, as well as noticing their own responses to what is observed, candidates will develop the following knowledge, skills and attitudes.
Candidates will recognize moment-by-moment examples of how an infant’s mind and somatic self develop from their early caregiving experiences.
Candidates will learn to observe attachment patterns in infants and caregivers.
Candidates will acquire a rich experiential foundation for deeper exploration of theoretical and developmental material in subsequent didactic courses.
Candidates will be able to use their infant observation experience to improve treatment interventions and efficacy by recognizing early developmental deficits in the clinical setting.
Candidates will develop the capacity to distinguish between what they observe and what they think.
Candidates will deepen their capacity to reflect on and remain in contact with feeling states observed in the baby, caregiver, and those they experience while observing, rather than discharging their feelings through action.
Candidates will hone their ability to make use of countertransference as a clinical tool to understand and empathize with both the infant’s and caregiver’s experiences.
Candidates will further refine their ability to write about clinical process in a nuanced way that distinguishes between observed process moments and the inferences and hypotheses made regarding the infant’s or the parent’s experience or state of mind.
Finding a Baby and Family for Infant Observation
While looking for a family and baby to observe, you might consider the following:
Mentioning that you are engaged in a program to learn about infancy, observing a baby from the very beginning of its life to discover how the baby forms relationships with caregivers.
As a part of an extensive study program in child development, I am required to do an infant observation and I am looking for a volunteer.
The observation would involve observing the same infant and caregiver(s) for one year (until June 2024), and would involve a weekly hour-long visit, generally at the same time each week.
The family is encouraged to go about its normal activities during the observation visit. The observations are not intended to disrupt the family’s routine and in fact, it’s helpful to be able to observe the baby and caregiver doing what they would normally do in they way they generally interact and do things together.
Previous baby observation volunteers have found this to be a rich and rewarding experience that deepens their own appreciation of the many early developmental milestones. If, however, during the year you become uncomfortable with my presence/observation you may stop participation at any time.
My background is in Clinical Psychology and Psychoanalysis (ADD YOUR OWN HERE) and I bring to this observation ten years of clinical experience in the field of child development (ADD YOUR OWN HERE). I also bring great excitement to watching your infant grow and develop their first year of life.
If you are interested in volunteering or have any questions at all, please call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX (YOUR NUMBER). I will be happy to provide more information so that you can make a decision about participating.
Thank you for your consideration.