ABSTRACT

Infant observation has played an important part in psychoanalytic training for more than half a century. A form of observation rooted in psychoanalysis, it is an endeavour that introduces practitioners to a very particular way of being subjectively with, while, at the same time, objectively observing, the other. It gives insight into the nature and meaning of relationships, with all the joys and terrors of love and hate, intimacy, separation and loss, and it gives us a privileged view of the crucial early stages of development of the personality. As such, its value goes far beyond the practice of psychoanalysis, and the influence of infant observation, in its original form and its many adaptations, extends into many different spheres. Clearly, it is directly relevant to those concerned with child development, among them parents, teachers, health visitors, general practitioners, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, psychologists, and psychotherapists, but this unique method of observation has the capacity to enrich our understanding of adults as well as children, groups and organisations as well as individuals. Trowell (2002) describes the value of observational skills derived from infant observations in the training of 58practitioners in a range of different fields, including community work with older adults, people with mental health problems, and those with disabilities, as well as in training projects with medical students and hospital doctors, police and child protection teams. She further discusses the use of this approach in decision-making for a wide variety of professionals who work with people.