Psychoanalytic Child & Adolescent Psychotherapists undertake a training that takes a minimum of 6 years.
The last fours years of which are full time and based in the NHS, usually a CAMHS Tier-3 clinic. Candidate trainees must hold undergraduate and psychoanalytic Masters degrees plus have relevant experience with children.
Clinicians must undertake at least five years of their own personal analysis (psychoanalysis five times a week with an approved training psychoanalyst) to complete the training.
Only NHS trained Psychoanalytic Child & Adolescent Psychotherapists are registered with the Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP)
The training of Psychoanalytic Child & Adolescent Psychotherapists leaves them especially well-equipped to work with the unconscious emotional lives of children and young people.
They are trained and work in the NHS but many work in other settings and organisations, e.g. in private health clinics, children’s charities and in private practice. They work in schools and with children with ordinary worries, those in need of a little extra help to deal with something that is stuck or otherwise a difficulty. However their highly specialised training means they are often asked to work with the most complex and chronic difficulties, especially when other professionals' interventions have failed to generate the hoped for change. (ACP guides & leaflets about the work of Child & Adolescent Psychotherapists)
One of the best known aspects of psychoanalysis with children is Attachment Theory.
This theory was devised by John Bowlby, a British Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst and former Chair of the Association of Child Psychotherapists. Unconscious mental life includes thoughts and feelings, Bowlby’s work linked the unconscious emotional life of infants to an understanding of their attachment to a caregiver, something that was later elaborated and described by the developmental psychologist Mary Ainsworth. She devised an experiential test, the ‘Strange Situation’, that provoked behaviour in young children that revealed their unconscious emotional life. This test revealed different patterns of attachment in children: Secure, anxious-ambivalent, anxious-avoidant and disorganised attachment.
Attachment Theory has become the dominant theory used today in the study of child behaviour and in the fields of infant mental health, the treatment of children, and related fields. Attachment Theory today is a key tool for Social Workers when determining a child’s needs and wellbeing with their carer/s.
Psychoanalytic Child & Adolescent Psychotherapists’ skill at working with the unconscious emotional lives of children and young people means they are ideally equipped to treat children where neglect and abuse have left them with complex or disturbed attachment behaviours - see here for parent guide on work with fostered & adopted children.
Treating these children as early as possible returns the greatest benefits as unconscious emotional disturbances can persist into later years and if left unresolved can have a corrosive effect on an adult’s capacity to make and maintain loving, thoughtful and creative relationships
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