Australasian Journal Of Psychotherapy
NO.2 - 2013


In thinking about the papers gathered under these covers I am reminded of a comment made by Professor Jeremy Holmes at a workshop he gave in Perth some years back. Mentalisation, he said, freely adapting from Robbie Burns, “is the capacity to see others from the inside, and ourselves from the outside.”1 It is fostered by a parent’s desire to know who a child really is, drawing on both empathy and reflectiveness.

Each of the papers here could be said to explore the vicissitudes of mentalisation, as it pertains to patients and psychotherapists, researchers, organisations, and ethics. So Eva Balint gives us a beautiful account of her work with a man who needed desperately to be known, yet dreaded linking with another, experiencing lapses in mirroring as annihilation. Known by his parents only from the outside, his mind was a terrifying world where thoughts and feelings remained radically disconnected and the self, insubstantial. Through Balint’s endurance, patience, and curiosity, however, as his interior world was empathically understood and thought about, this man gradually became able to bear being known from the inside.

Anne Jeffs writes about a difficult therapy that took place in an unsupportive organisation. While not overtly hostile, her workplace nonetheless failed, due to systemic stress and rigidity, to understand the value of a delicate long-term psychoanalytic therapy which was at variance from its current models of practice and funding. In this way the workplace might be said to parallel her patient’s difficulty thinking about her children as having unique and separate minds, projecting onto them her own pathology, and thus impeding their flourishing. It is a testament to Jeff’s capacity to stay attuned and reflective in such difficult circumstances that the therapy with this patient had such a good outcome.

The mentalising lens shifts next to a consideration of the field of psychotherapy outcome research, as Celia Godfrey and her colleagues explore the ways in which an observer may bring her attention to bear on her own intrapsychic experiences, and through this reflection, illuminate the inner world of patients whose experience is the subject, not of therapy, but of research. They offer a means of understanding the resonating and sometimes parallel unconscious processes in researcher and interviewee. It is a fine contribution that once again demonstrates the value of psychoanalytic perspectives in fields outside psychotherapy itself.

Finally, Paul Foulkes’ paper considers ethics, maintaining that clear-sighted and non-judgemental reflection on our own psychodynamics, and those of the institutes that train and contain us, is critical if breaches in ethical practice are to be avoided. He highlights the sometimes contradictory desire for our actions to have the reassuring “moral” sanction of shared tenets of behaviour, and the trickier and less bounded, but equally important, need for individual “ethical” judgement, that transcends behavioural codes of “good” and “bad”, involving as it does an empathic awareness of our own, sometimes muddier, intrapsychic and intersubjective cross-currents:

Foulkes puts it trenchantly:

Cultural and organisational pressures create intrinsic difficulties for the psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapists and [give] rise to a tendency to superficially adhere in a mindless fashion to a set of moral injunctions. Compliance in thought and behaviour acts to prevent self-reflective thought, the capacity to consider the position of the patient, especially the impact of the therapist’s actions upon the patient. The latter, empathic position is the essence of practicing ethically.

This view, it might be argued, rightly sees the psychotherapist’s own capacity for mentalisation as critical to ethical practice.

Gathered together here too are three books reviews. They traverse a large terrain. The first is the life course itself, in Isca Salzberger-Wittenberg’s Experiencing Endings and Beginnings, a book that much impressed Elisabeth Hanscombe. Paul Valent offers a trenchant critique of Ron Rosenbaum’s Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil, arguing that we must try to understand Hitler from the perspective of developmental trauma, rather than merely explain or judge him through an historical or moral prism. Lastly Christine Brett Vickers reviews, with qualified plaudits, Peter Ellingsen’s A History of Psychoanalysis In Australia: From Freud to Lacan, which readers will recall we sampled in the last edition of the AJP.

I am also pleased to bring readers a poem by APPWA member Karen McCrea, a moving tribute to her father. It was also Karen who encouraged her friend and colleague Lauren Massy to provide the cover art for this edition; I am grateful to them both.

To contributors and reviewers, book review editor, Elisabeth Hanscombe, as well as indefatigable graphic designer, Tim Fluence, I also offer my thanks, since without their generosity, and patience in the exacting process of putting it together, this, the second edition of the 31st volume of the Australasian Journal of Psychotherapy, could not be offered to you with such pleasure now.

1    These ideas are developed in Holmes book Exploring in Security(2010)

Suzanne Hicks
 | Editor
PO Box 1115, Margaret River

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