Welcome to our regular feature Inspired by which aims to give our readers an overview of the therapeutic backdrop to which many counsellors base their work today. As the decades roll by we are always privileged to be privy to the newest leaps in psychoanalysis and as behavioural studies continue and neuroscience advances, the way in which we understand the brain and human development is forever changing.

 

This series is a look into the masters who have come before us; the analysts, scientists, medics and researchers who have helped us map just what makes us who we are, why we think and behave in the way we do and how to help when things feel difficult.

 

As well as some household names that we are sure you are all familiar with, there may be a few people who are less known and so we at The Henry Centre thought what better way to show them off than dedicate this series of blogs to them. So dive in!

So who are they?

 

Melanie Klein was an Austrian-British psychoanalyst who, interestingly, came to the profession after a stint of undergoing her own psychoanalytic treatment. Throughout her work she made a number of significant contributions to the field of psychoanalysis, focusing particularly on child development.

 

She is best known for her studies and innovative theories around early childhood experiences, the development of the psyche, and the understanding of unconscious processes in children. Klein was also the analyst who first developed the concept of object relations theory which is widely used today and helps us understand deeper the way in which children form bonds at a young age.

So why are they important?

 

Klein is, amongst other things, probably most well known for developing the aforementioned theory of object relations. This is primarily focused on understanding how individuals relate to, and then internalise their early relationships, particularly those with their primary caregivers. Through using careful infant observation, whereby she made efforts to observe the child in their own natural settings such as at home, she was able to learn more about the dynamics at play where these emotional bonds were being formed.Through her observations Klein realised the importance of the infant’s relationship with this primary caregiver in the shaping of the child as they grow and mature into adults and she developed a number of key concepts which show the inner workings, or inner world of the child.

 

One such concept was that of the ‘Paranoid-Schizoid’ and ‘Depressive Positions’ which she believed were fundamental positions in child development. The paranoid-schizoid position was characterised by feelings of anxiety, the action of psychologically splitting off parts of the self due to discomfort or ambiguity, and the projection of good and bad qualities onto external objects (often people). It is stated that after this stage has been experienced, the depressive position follows suit. This position is marked by the integration of these diverse feelings, which are slowly replaced with the development of a more realistic and nuanced understanding of the self and others. It is worth noting at this point that the term ‘depressive’ in this context differs somewhat from the general usage of the term.

So how does this work in the therapy room?

The concept of the paranoid schizoid and depressive positions are often played out in the therapy room as the client works their way through difficult experiences and learns to accept that there are good and bad aspects in all situations. Klein’s notion of projective identification is also tied in with this, whereby individuals might unconsciously project their own internal feelings, thoughts, and conflicts onto others. This concept has become influential in understanding interpersonal dynamics and has been integrated into various psychoanalytic theories throughout the years. Along with transference and countertransference, projective identification is a very useful tool in the therapy room, and a trained analyst will be able to explore what aspects of the analysand’s psyche are being projected away from the individual and for what purpose.

 

In terms of working with younger clients, Klein’s introduction of the concept of play therapy in psychoanalysis is integral when working with young children, as often they are unable to articulate or understand on a conscious level what is going on for them. She believed that play was a crucial medium through which children can express their inner thoughts, emotions, and conflicts and by observing a child’s play, the therapist can gain insight into the child’s unconscious dynamics and help bring these to the surface.

Here at The Henry Centre we strive to offer our clients the best possible therapeutic experience. It is because of this that all our therapists are highly qualified and knowledgeable of many different therapeutic approaches and disciplines. Having a deep interest and understanding of those who have paved the way for the work we do today in the therapy room is essential to our practice. If you feel that you could benefit from talk therapy, why not get in touch with The Henry Centre, based in both Westcliff-on-sea Southend and now Chelmsford, then get in touch with our friendly team today.