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Infant observation and the French model



Psychoanalytic training in the French Societies belonging to the International Psychoanalytic Association does not grant any place to the observation of babies as it exists in certain societies of other countries. Infant observation is even the object of sharp critiques by eminent French theoreticians. The reasons given for condemning infant observation and refusing to give it any place in the training programme lie in theoretical positions concerning the very nature of the Freudian discovery and its interpretation, which is more idealistic than empirical. The author discusses these reasons while drawing attention to the frequent confusion between a reference to empiricism and a reference to the experimental. The fear of a psychologizing deviation of metapsychology and of a denial of psychic reality leads, in the French model, to placing the emphasis on personal analytic experience during the candidate’s psychoanalysis, prolonged by supervisions. It excludes any academic teaching of metapsychology or of related disciplines. The confusion between the empiricism of Esther Bick’s method and the recourse to experimental procedures in developmental research stands in the way of making a place for infant observation and of recognizing its training value, not so much for the acquisition of new knowledge or the validation of metapsychological models, as for its usefulness in developing a mode of psychoanalytic observation and an increase in the candidates’ containing capacities.

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