First Weekend of the UMass Boston Infant Parent Mental Health Course
This course is essentially related to the focus of this blog – caring for the caregivers. The course was where I developed my ideas more fully and also my clinical skills.
Our first weekend of the course was exciting, as I have come to expect from my previous experience at the first two courses. We started on Thursday afternoon with an introduction to the program. Berry Brazelton paid an extended visit to the Thursday afternoon class, and in his relaxed and gracious manner and in his wisdom, he offered the program an extraordinary inauguration.
On Friday morning, Ed Tronick initiated the theoretical framework of the program by presenting his developmental model of match, mismatch, and repair, and its implication for Attachment Theory. Marilyn Davillier then offered us a paradigmatic case, “Pretend You Feeded Me!” a moving videotape of a young child and her grandmother trying to find each other and create a family together against a background of profound loss, trauma, and insecurity. We thought we would return to this case again and again in our attempts to use new knowledge to understand tragic human dilemmas. After the case, Ed returned us to a focus on theory, laying out the theoretical framework of the infant parent course and explaining his core developmental model of the dyadic expansion of consciousness. Ed illustrated the salient points of the lecture with powerful videotapes of the still face paradigm. The remarkable sensitivity of infants to their mother’s non-verbal communications was demonstrated in these tapes, in which when their mothers suddenly became unresponsive in their presence, the babies made multiple bids for attention (calling out to their mothers, putting up their hands, pointing,) while also self regulating themselves in this stressful situation. Finally, as the 2-minute time period progressed, some babies seemed to give up, even lost postural control and slumped in their infant chairs. The repair of the rupture caused by the still face was again a unique creation in each mother-infant pair. Making use of familiar patterns of behavior that had meaning for the two of them in particular, mother and child rebuilt a sense of connection, a “being together”, but one imagines that, after the still face experience, the ways the two have of being together can never be exactly the same again.
On Saturday, I (Alex) began the program with a presentation of my sandwich model of therapeutic action. I call it a clinician’s attempt to integrate infant research and psychoanalytic theory. As mentioned earlier in the blog, … , the top bread in the sandwich represents the very very big (the wide scope of nonlinearl theories describing how all open systems change). The meat or veggie in the sandwich represents the interactive processes taking place in the time frame in which language and other symbols are made; it tells the story. And the lower slice of bread represents the microprocess, in a time frame measured in seconds and split seconds. This micro level is what I refer to the music and the dance of therapeutic (and developmental) process, and it is rarely taken into account in clinical case descriptions. And yet nestled within it are micro versions of patterns that are more evident at higher temporal levels in the form of gross actions and language. I illustrated the model with the case of a dyadic treatment of a young child and his mother. In this case demonstration, the coming together of meanings from multiple domains and time frames – language, actions, coordinated vocal rhythms –with the shared intention of creating a new meaning, was a modest attempt of illustrating the multiple simultaneous meaning making processes constantly at work in human beings as they try to move forward in their lives.
We had a FIGS group lunch in which I got to know some of the remarkable fellows in greater depth. Out of our seven international fellows, a Peruvian and a Chilien, were included in my group. Our conversation ranged from our individual journeys to the program and to infant mental health, to projects we are passionate about. I talked about the reunification law in El Salvador, because I had the feeling that these people would comprehend the impact of the law.