Alumni Group Round Table Discussion Series
July 17, 2020 11:30 am to 1:00 pm
The Infant-Parent Relationship as a Paradigm for Adult Treatment: The Contributions of Ed Tronick
Penny Hooks, MD
Whereas the Oedipus complex was the centerpiece of classical psychoanalysis, the infant-parent relationship has become the foundation for relational psychoanalysis. Developmental psychologist Edward Tronick is one of the most renowned infant-parent researchers who contributed major concepts to relational treatment. Based on a summary of his work (Beebe & Lachmann, 2015), he is best known for his concepts of mutual affect regulation and dyadic expansion of consciousness in infant-mother interactions. Tronick originated the Still Face experiment, which can be viewed on a short video clip on YouTube (2009), vividly demonstrating the mutual affect regulation that occurs between a mother and her baby. The interactive dance between mother and baby is similar to the interactive dance between an adult couple, demonstrated in another short video on YouTube with commentary by Tronick and Sue Johnson (2016). Tronick’s concepts of mutual affect regulation and dyadic expansion of consciousness between infant and parent, in turn, led to a procedural theory of therapeutic action between clinicians and their child and adult patients (Beebe & Lachmann, 2015). Tronick’s paper on non-interpretive mechanisms in psychoanalytic therapy, co-authored with other members of the Boston Change Process Study Group in 1998, became one of the 10 most cited articles in psychoanalysis. Cavelzani and Tronick (2016) provide a case example of dyadically expanded states of consciousness and therapeutic change in the interaction between an analyst and adult patient. While the analysis of an adult involves nonverbal modes of interaction similar to those between an infant and parent, Tronick (2003) also views language and symbols as critical to the change process with adults.
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