This is one of our occasional book reviews of “orphaned” books: those that may be reviewed in a few years, but IP.net readers get a preview now.
The Anna Freud Tradition, edited by Marburg and Raphael-Leff, may be one in a series of Karnac books that look at various schools of psychoanalysis.
I’ve asked Nick Midgley of the Anna Freud Centre to write the review, despite
his having written one chapter in the book. Readers will judge how well he has presented an informed and thoughtful overview.
Anna Freud gave us much. Now, her students and colleagues summarize what paths she inititated and how it may be feasible to develop them further.
N. Szajnberg, M.D. Managing Editor
Review of ‘The Anna Freud Tradition: Lines of Development – Evolution of Theory and Practice over the Decades’, ed. N. Malberg and J. Raphael-Leff (Karnac, 2012).
Nick Midgley, PsyD. Course Director, MSc in Developmental Psychology and Clinical Practice, UCL / Anna Freud Centre.
In a book published in 1965, Normality and Pathology in Childhood, Anna Freud introduced her concept of ‘developmental lines’: expectable pathways based on subtle interactions of internal and external factors, through which we expect all children to pass. Although rooted in psychoanalytic thinking, the developmental lines drew on observations of surface behaviour, thus offering the possibility that analysts and non-analysts could find a shared language to assess the degree to which a child’s development was progressing, become uneven, or seriously derailed.
The editors of this new book (to which I contributed a chapter) draw on the metaphor of ‘developmental lines’ to describe the volume’s aims: to sketch out the ‘developmental line’ of the school of psychoanalytic thought associated with Anna Freud and the work of the Hampstead Child Therapy Clinic in London (renamed, after her death, the Anna Freud Centre). In the thirty-seven chapters that make up this book, the editors promise to set out ‘the roots and branches of one extended family tree’. This image suggests an organic process of growth, a connectedness between the ideas as they have evolved in different domains.
The central idea – of both the book and of Anna Freud’s work – is the developmental perspective: the core of this book is two sections (made up of twenty-three chapters) on the applications of Anna Freud’s developmental thinking to clinical and outreach work with children. The book progress through the stages of development – from infancy through adolescence – not only summarizing Anna Freud’s key ideas, but also illustrating these ideas in practice. The editors hope that this extended section will become a ‘vibrant teaching and learning resource for students and practitioners …’, especially for those who hope to see how developmental theory translates into clinical practice with children of different ages. These chapters also offer a wonderful illustration of the interplay between theory, observation and clinical practice. They demonstrate how analytic ideas can contribute to work in a wide range of settings, including schools, hospitals and social care.
The sections that frame this core provide an historical context (in part one) and offer a range of personal and theoretical reflections on the Hampstead Clinic and the Anna Freudian tradition (in part four). Topics are wide-ranging, including the history of the Hampstead Clinic and its child analytic training course; the experience of being a trainee or receiving supervision there; as well as a series of ‘biographical cameos’ of significant figures in the history of the Clinic. Although these sections contain some excellent chapters, at times these parts felt more like the historical record of a significant moment in psychoanalytic history, recorded for posterity, and I was less clear who the intended readership was for these chapters.
Perhaps this brings us to the tension at the book’s heart: the image of a developmental line, or a tree and branches, suggests growth, progress, continuing evolution, but at various points, contributors speak of the ‘legacy’ of the Anna Freud approach, as if assessing the value of something that has already passed, a growth truncated. Several contributors comment on the decision to end the child analytic training in 2003, which means that no new child analysts are being trained at the Anna Freud Centre; this casts a long shadow over the volume. Will this decision to stop training child analysts at the Anna Freud Centre mean that the Anna Freudian approach will gradually fade, or is the legacy of the developmental approach to be found (and taken forward) in modern developments, such as developmental psychopathology and neuroscience (in the field of research) or parent-infant psychotherapy and mentalization-based treatment (as forms of therapy)?
These questions hover around the edges of this book, not quite addressed directly but inform many of the contributions. Is the Anna Freudian tradition still developing? Have some parts moved on while others are stuck, leading to uneven development? Has the whole development of this tradition been derailed? And if so, what are the chances of further development? These unanswered questions haunt the pages of this collection; they give it a curious tone – part celebration, part defiance, part mourning for something lost.
But these questions do not undermine this volume’s value. For those who have followed Anna Freud’s work for many years, this book is a marker of what has been achieved; for those new to Anna Freud, this book offers the opportunity to learn about her way of thinking, as described by several generations of child analysts who are themselves a part of ‘the Anna Freud tradition’.
Nick MidgleyExplore posts in the same categories: Books