Infant observation: opportunities, challenges, threats
This article reflects on the value of the infant observation tradition from the perspective of someone originally trained in scientific psychology and recently ending a four-year period as external examiner for the Masters and Diploma course in Psychoanalytic Observation at the Tavistock clinic. My aim is to convey, from the perspective of an outsider, how I came to appreciate the core insights that I learned from infant observation through my experience of them in a research context; to convey
... this in such a way as to refresh the experience of its value to those insiders for whom its value may have become commonplace. I explore this through three aspects of my own learning from experience: the value of a form of knowing imbued with emotional depth; of communicating in direct, vital and emotionally redolent language and of reflecting on emotional experience, where necessary with the containment of other minds and supporting external structures. I then discuss the status of infant observation as applied psychoanalysis, suggest a model of dialogue between traditions to modify the notion of (one-way) application of 2 psychoanalysis. I give some examples of how infant observation, occupying a liminal space between clinical psychoanalysis and various forms of practice that differ from it, provides a model for the use of psychoanalytic concepts in research. The transformed meaning of objectivity from a scientific paradigm to a psychoanalytic paradigm provides a brief example. The article concludes with a brief summary of some threats, opportunities and challenges to infant observation from the perspective of application.