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The definition of psychoanalytic treatment as the study of the mind in conflict has disembodied Freud's radical insight that psychic life is originally and perpetually rooted in corporeal existence. Karen Gubb, whose paper Re-embodying the analyst is the latest winner of the Mervin Glasser Postgraduate Student Prize, reminds us of the carnality of the 'talking cure' by focusing on the meaning the patient makes of the therapist's physicality. Gubb notes that the inherent asymmetry of the analytic encounter means that patients, deprived of verbal information about the person of the therapist, may hyper-invest the visual appearance of the therapist's body with transference attributions. Focusing on therapeutic vignettes detailing patients' reactions to her scarred hand, Gubb demonstrates how the patient's experience of the therapist's body constitutes the latter as an analytic object. The fact that therapists have no control over patients' perceptions of their bodies makes these carnal fantasies a particularly powerful stimulus for countertransference responsiveness. Gubb's original contribution to this neglected topic makes her a worthy winner of the Glasser prize.

Every only child wonders what it would be like to have siblings. Juliet Mitchell extends her seminal work on sibling relationships by suggesting that the only child, because siblings exist only in fantasy and through affinal relationships, offers us unique insight into the place of siblings in our psychic structure. In her paper Hamlet--The lonely only and his siblings, Mitchell applies a psychoanalytic reading of siblings to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Mitchell's creative and fresh use of Hamlet brings to life the dilemmas of the only child and the extent to which lateral--and not only parental vertical--relationships dominate the play. Mitchell's thought-provoking paper challenges our long-held paradigms by asking us to shift our perspective from parents to siblings and from the consulting room to the stage and back again.

The final two papers of this edition share an underexplored theme of pertinence to practice in South Africa. Both papers explore, from different perspectives, the painful and unpredictable task of working in South Africa's healthcare settings as an intern or community service psychologist. Lisa Padfield offers a candid and moving paper reflecting on her experiences as a community service psychologist. Entitled Reframing the frame: Reflections of a community service psychologist, her purpose is simultaneously to explore the unique complications of community service work and to suggest that, while possibilities for change may be limited, they can sometimes nonetheless be profound. Padfield offers a framework for holding the psychoanalytic frame in mind despite the frame violations endemic to the setting. Her paper makes an important and much needed contribution to understandings of this very difficult work.

In the second paper addressing the experiences of community service psychologists, Frances Williams and Sharon Sibanda ask us to think about the unthinkable--baby rape and the physical and psychic holes this leaves in its wake. The 'black holes' in the title refer to both appalling physical ruptures and the psychic ruptures that signal uncontained traumatic experience. It is recently qualified psychologists doing community service who are mainly responsible for conducting psychotherapy with the child survivors of sexual violence. By voicing their emotional responses to these young patients, the authors confront and attempt to make meaning of their abysmal countertransference reactions. As they note, however, the combination of projected rage, defensive blankness and the demand to think the unthinkable imposes at times unbearable countertransference strain on the containing abilities of psychotherapists. Whilst realistically appreciative of the containing function of their co-authored narrative, they write frankly about failed containment and the unconscious evasion of their patients' psychic reality. They also employ a generative dialogue to reflect on how their respective racial identities shape their countertransference responses to these traumatic contexts. Whilst emotionally confronting to read, the authors' unflinching presentation of their countertransference experience calls on us to witness, albeit secondhand, the horrifying consequences of community violence that newly qualified clinical psychologists are working with in their community service year.

Finally, Grahame Hayes reviews a book by Michael Miller entitled Lacanian Psychotherapy: Theory and practical applications.
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Author:Long, Carol; Ivey, Gavin
Publication:Psycho-analytic Psychotherapy in South Africa
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 22, 2013
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