Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis

Silvija Lejniece, MD, Psychoanalyst

The founder of psychoanalysis for children is Anna Freud (1895-1982), daughter of the first Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. During 1920-ties, Anna Freud in cooperation with Melanie Klein (1882-1960) both contributed uniquely to scientific study of child analysis, and developed principles of theory of child psychoanalysis.

Principles of analysis for children and for adults are the same, except that children do not arrive for therapy self-dependently, they are taken to by parents. Analyst’s  cooperation with parents  is indispensable in child analysis,  as parents are a basic element of internal and external life of their children.

Mental development of children, as well as child’s age, relationships with parents, and model of parental family, are all to be taken in account in cooperation with children. Mental pathology of parents, which can be manifested in the internal world of the child, is also of importance.

Like  the use of language for communication in world of adults, in child’s world  the ways of expressing oneself  are – playing, drawing, and symbolic messages, which serve for communication much more than language.

Play is one of  the primary activities of children. Playing is common for children of all countries, and it has existed in all times. Children are taught to play by nobody, they do it spontaneously and with pleasure, without any predefined goal.

To comprehend the internal sense of child’s play, even if it is seems unclear at the beginning, is the task of an analyst. All child’s activities should not be looked upon only from the viewpoint, whether they prepare the child for living as an adult. Like any stage of childhood, also playing has some meaning within human life.

Parents are often in need of explanation of child’s behaviour, problems, and motives of child’s actions. They need support, understanding and help by the analyst. By helping a child, the analyst may also help the whole family. Because of that, child and adolescent analysis includes help and insight in a sense which is notably more voluminous.

Adolescence, usually the age from 11-12 to 18-20 is one of most essential stages in  the human mental development. As regards it’s intensity, adolescence can be compared only with the very first years of life. Thus psychoanalysis for adolescents takes a particular and important place within the field of psycho-emotional help for children and young people. Adolescent analysis, although it shares a lot with analysis of children and of adults, is neither adult, nor child analysis.

Physical changes in adolescence are obvious. The mental changes may be not always visible, but they are equally important. Adolescent’s mind has to cope with internal tasks, like acceptance of one’s own physical changes, personal identity of a female, or of a male, and becoming self-dependent, as well as external tasks, like to  recognise and choose being affiliated to new social groups, to react to the pressure towards integration  of various social norms into oneself, and to build and understand principles for developing relationships.

In the process of child and adolescent analysis, definite ideas and notions are becoming expanded. Some of them can be pointed out.

  • Understanding, that unconscious desires and motives are of decisive importance. A child, or adolescent can gradually achieve an insight on his/her unconscious mind, and solve psychological problems, as they arise, by help of this understanding, however it takes a special procedure, and help of a professional analyst.
  • Understanding, that there are always conflicting desires, and bearing internal contradictions is inevitable. As a result, we normally avoid being aware of  and remembering   some of our wishes and certain things. While this is natural or even needed, it may lead to serious delusion, or problem, too.
  • Parental understanding of the decisive effect of child’s or adolescent’s early experience on his/her future life and development. Basic mental structures develop the during first months and years of  the child’s life     in  the  relationship with actual parents and other relatives.
  • Understanding transference. Child’s feelings, responses and mental dispositions which are developed initially   in his/her  relationship with people who are the closest ones, do not disappear in further life. This kind of experience remains in the unconscious mind and is thus repeated, namely, transferred with no awareness and no modification, to numerous other relationships bearing any emotional meaning. Transference is a universal trait of human mind, however, it may render our emotional responses and feelings also erroneous and delusive.

Like in adult analysis, also a child and adolescent analyst builds no plan and no structure for the contents of sessions (encounters), and if therapy is on long-term basis, sets not limits for direction of child’s thinking. Therapeutic process includes analysis of child’s associations, play, drawings, current experience, relationships and transference. Technically, this is carried out by confrontation, clarification, interpretation and working through. Regularity of sessions is an important condition. The place for sessions, like the time (the weekday and the hour, 30-45 minutes long), remains unchanged. The safe and constant place thus provided  lets the analytic relations develop and achieve a good therapeutic result.

In the course of analysis, the  analyst helps child to become aware of, comprehend, and accept his/her own feelings, as well as to identify and comprehend unconscious conflicts and unhealthy ways of behaviour. As a result, child’s  symptoms improve (they may include conduct disorders, fears, psychosomatic disorders, difficulties of adaptation    , relationship problems, aggressive and destructive behaviour, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and more). A child and adolescent analyst is indirectly working with the whole family. Once   family  relationships become healthier , the parents cooperate better with each other, with their children and other relatives, as well as with the  analyst


Child and Adolescent Pychoanalysts

Silvija Lejniece- Child and Adolescent psychoanalyst

Indra Upmiņa- Child and Adolescent psychoanalyst

Aleksandrs Moškins- Child and Adolescent psychotherapist

Viktors Ozoliņš- Child and Adolescent psychotherapist