Invitation to study group – D.W. Winnicott
Beginning in March 2022
I am asking for a kind of revolution in our work. Let us re-examine what we do. Winnicott, 1971
Donald Woods Winnicott (1896-1971) was a paediatrician and psychoanalyst for both adults and children. He was a Training Analyst of the Institute of Psychoanalysis (BPS) – and its President for two separate terms. His contributions to psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, therapeutic consultation, child and adult development have been more fully acknowledged since the 1960s. Winnicott was central to the establishment of British object relations theory – and revolutionized psychoanalytic thinking.
In addition, D.W. Winnicott was a prolific writer and broadcaster – attempting to make a contribution to the wider world – the world outside of psychoanalytic thinkers. His writing is often considered ‘obscure’ or difficult to comprehend. Yet, in examining his work, his ideas, his influence on our everyday clinical experience, it is undoubtedly instructive in our attempts to reach our patients, our clients - at their most vulnerable and painful levels. He uses everyday language – language more descriptive than theoretical – in his use of words such as ‘holding’, ‘transitional’, ‘being,’ ‘creativity,’ ‘aliveness,’ ‘true and false self,’ ‘impingement.’
Indeed, his theoretical matrix was rooted in the newborn’s primary relationship – the baby’s developing sense of self. And this perspective was an essential part of his clinical approach. In the Introduction to Therapeutic Consultations in Child Psychiatry (1971), Winnicott stated: In the therapeutic consultation…the client begins to feel that understanding may perhaps be available - that communication at a deep level may become possible.
That is, what may not have been achieved in the early relationship may be realized in the therapeutic setting. Communication was key - as was an emotional connection with the client. Winnicott was, as Monica Lanyado writes ‘Winnicott was the communicator par excellence.’ (2012) His work has much to offer all of us as we continue on our path to becoming better therapists.
I want to propose a study group – one that will examine and discuss Winnicott’s work – meeting for one and one half (1 ½) – two hours a month on Wednesday morning. We will begin each meeting at 8:30 am – on Zoom. (MST)
This study group will begin in March 2022.
My proposal is to examine the evolution of Winnicott’s contribution, focusing on his key influences on our therapeutic work – including the development of the self, the concepts of holding, transitional phenomena, communication, creativity. The development of the self is particularly of interest to me – as I find that many are having difficulty in grasping their sense of self – where they belong, how to manage their anxiety or depression, and their place in this changing world.
More details will be forthcoming – and please feel free to contact me with specific questions about the content. My wish is to look carefully at what we do as therapists, how we decide what we do, and what in Winnicott’s work can be helpful to our continuing work. Examples from our clinical work will, of course, be included – as I do not want this to be a theoretical exercise. Rather, I want this to enhance our clinical acumen in a rapidly changing mental health atmosphere.
Chapters from three texts will be used (and I will provide those chapters that I have available). However, I would suggest that, if possible, you purchase the texts, as each one is incredibly informative and helpful to our discussion and our clinical understanding. The texts are:
Spelman, Margaret Boyle (2013) The Evolution of Winnicott’s Thinking: Examining the Growth of Psychoanalytic Thought Over Three Generations. Karnac.
Reading Winnicott (2011) Edited by Lesley Caldwell and Angela Joyce. Routledge.
Donald Winnicott Today (2013) Edited by Jan Abram. Routledge.
I look forward to hearing from you – and hope that you can join us.