Rescue Fantasies in Child Therapy
Rescue Fantasies in Child Therapy
ABSTRACT: When the focus of the child treatment is on the therapist being a ‘‘good’’ object, this can accentuate a possible countertransference dif- ficulty of the therapist becoming the protector of the child from the ‘‘bad’’ object. This countertransference can often resonate with rescue fantasies in the child. This paper will explore the topic of rescue fantasies in child treat- ment, while addressing the issue of coinciding fantasies existing uncon- sciously in both the therapist and child, leading to their enactment. A case of a nine-year old boy is presented which demonstrates how interpretation and resolution of rescue fantasies can lead to a deepening of the treatment.
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KEY WORDS: Rescue Fantasies; Countertransference; Enactments.
Transference and its ubiquitous counterpart, therapist countertrans- ference, are historical cornerstones of psychoanalytic treatment with adults. In contrast, the early days of child psychoanalysis, beginning in the 1930’s, focused less on transference and countertransference, but instead emphasized the ‘‘real relationship’’ between patient and therapist (Freud, 1936). Due to the immaturity of the child, transfer- ence was considered secondary to the ‘‘real’’ positive alliance with the ‘‘good object’’ of the therapist. By de-emphasizing transference, it
Kerry L. Malawista is a Training and Supervising Analyst, The New York Freudian Society and Teaching Faculty, George Washington University, D.C. for psy. D. Pro- gram.
Address for correspondence to Kerry L. Malawista, 9421 Thrush Lane Potomac, MD 20814; e-mail: kMalawista@AOL.com.
The author would like to thank Dr. Peter Malawista and Dr. Aimee Nover for their input and editing of this manuscript.
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Vol. 21, No. 4, August 2004 (� 2004)
373 � 2004 Human Sciences Press, Inc.
is inevitable cohort, therapist countertransference, also remained relatively unexplored; both in the literature and in the consulting room.
This early view of child therapy and analysis was based on the understanding that the process of identification with important peo- ple is much greater in children than adults; and that since the child was living in the present with the significant objects of the past, therapeutic exploration could confine itself to the ‘‘real and current’’ objects, the child’s parents. The therapist could then serve as a ‘‘new, and real, and good object’’ for the child. Yet alongside the ‘‘real object of the present’’ is the inevitable transference representation of the therapist, distorted by the child’s past and current needs and conflicts. When the focus of the child treatment is based on the ther- apist as the ‘‘real and good’’ object, and parents as ‘‘real and bad’’ objects, a possible (if not probable) therapist/patient countertransfer- ence/transference configuration can manifest as corresponding (and correspondingly stubborn) rescue fantasies which can impede the process and progress of the work within the therapeutic dyad.
This paper will explore the topic of rescue fantasies in child treat- ment, while addressing the issue of coinciding fantasies existing unconsciously in both the therapist and child, leading to their enact- ment.
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