Early Development of the Human Psyche – Infant Observation 1

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSHS3038242

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon semester 2019

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Ashis Roy

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: Admission to the Mphil Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy

Aim: To develop observation skills to become an observer – of infant, mother and themselves.

Course Outcomes:

  1. To sustain regular weekly observation of infants in a family and maintain written notes
  2. To base the understanding of psychoanalytic developmental theory on observations
  3. To make links between observations of interactions between infant and adult caretakers and observations of their own internal emotional states

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

This course has two parts that run simultaneously:

  1. Each student approaches and requests a family that is expecting a child whether they would be comfortable with having them as an observer, once a week for a period of two semesters which is a little over six months. A weekly observation, of one hour per week is set up and continues for the duration. The aim is to begin the observation as close to birth as possible. In the time spent with the family /mother-child/ child-carer, the observer is to just observe without taking notes and engaging in minimal conversation with the adults. After the hour, the student writes down a detailed description of what they have observed in the hour, including an observation of their own internal state but avoiding the temptation to theorise.
  2. The class meets once a week for an infant observation seminar led by the faculty member. One student presents their observation and the classmates join the student and seminar-leader to reflect upon the experience and hold the feelings of the observer in order to help them think and feel but not react in the observation context – processes essential to the equipment of a psychotherapist. Here links with theory and sociocultural may be encouraged but the focus is very much on internal experience of the infant, mother and observer.

Over the semester, the student is expected to spend four hours per week engaged in infant observation related activities which include:

  1. a one hour observation
  2. writing the observations
  3. a two hour seminar with the group.

Assessment Details with weights:

Students will be assessed on their developing capacities to:

  • be fully present in the infant observation situation;
  • avoid adult conversations;
  • reflect upon the feelings generated in them from what they observe rather than react to them through action or the need to intervene in the family;
  • make links between inner and outer experience, eg. What they observe and their feelings
  • make links with aspects of their own personal histories

During the course of the semester, the course assessment will consist of :

  • Regularity of written record of weekly observations: 30%
  • Regularity of attendance at weekly seminars: 30%
  • Returned completed written assignment: 40%

Reading List:

  1. Agarwal, U & Paiva, N.D. (2014). The uncomfortable subject. Observing the Indian girl child. Infant Observation
  2. Williams, M.H. (Ed.), Collected papers of Martha Harris and Esther Bick (pp. 225–239). Perthshire: Clunie.
  3. Fraiberg, S., Adelson, E., & Shapiro, V. (1975). Ghosts in the nursery: A psychoanalytic approach to the problems of impaired infant-mother relationships. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 14, 387–421
  4. Miller, L., Rustin, M.E; Rustin, M.J. & Shuttleworth J. (Eds.), Closely observed infants London: Duckworth.
  5. Paiva N.D. (2018). Love & Rage: the inner worlds of children. Yoda Press: New Delhi
  6. Paiva, N.D. (2014). Who observes Whom? Infant observation observed. an experience of setting up an infant observation training in India. Infant observation,
  7. Winnicott, D.W. (1964) The Child, The Family and The Outside World. Penguin: London
  8. Winnicott, D.W. The observation of infants. In From Paediatrics to Psychoanalysis.
  9. Klein, M. (19??) On observing the Behaviour of Young Infants
  10. Waddell, M. (2002). Inside Lives. Karnac: London