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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Mar 7, 2021

"We, as analysts, really need to use our psychoanalytic understanding of the value of the inner life of every individual and of the value of growth and development that occurs in a relationship. We need to use that kind of knowledge to find alternative ways, other than the intensive treatment we offer in our offices, to reach those not only in developing countries but also in our own country."


Episode Description: We begin with a conversation on the nature of altruism and the benefit it offers to the self. We specifically consider the role it plays in repairing "mismatches" that we all have in our pasts. Dr. Harrison describes the many activities of her international organization, Supporting Child Caregivers. She walks us through her early training in infant development and the learning curve she went through when she first brought that knowledge to an orphanage in El Salvador. Her experiences there taught her how to find the care-givers' language which enabled her to help them engage with the children with greater attunement. We consider the presence of trauma in the lives of these families and the help that sensitive caregiving can provide. A clinical vignette from her work in Pakistan demonstrates the power of 'magic moments.'


Our Guest:

Alexandra Murray Harrison, M.D. is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute in Adult and Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis, and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Harrison has an adult and child psychoanalytic and psychiatric private practice in Cambridge Massachusetts. She has a particular clinical interest in treating preschool children and consulting with their families and treating children with autistic spectrum disorders. In 2017, Dr. Harrison co-founded a non-profit, Supporting Child Caregivers, that offers training in infant-parent mental health to child caregivers throughout the world.


Dr. Harrison has co-authored a book on autism and published articles on numerous topics, including body image, play therapy, therapeutic change, and volunteer consultation. Dr. Harrison has lectured extensively in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Central and South America.


Recommended Readings:

Supporting Child Caregivers


Harrison AM (2014). The Sandwich Model: The 'Music and Dance' of Therapeutic Action, Internat J of Psychoanal, 95(2):313-340. Harrison AM (2017).


Harrison AM (2017). Altruism as Reparation of Mismatch or Disruption in the Self, Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 37(7): 464-473


Harrison A, M Gregory G, Neelgund P, Stieglitz A, (2019). Supporting Child Caregivers in South Indian Orphanages: Identifying 'Ghosts' and Creating 'Angels', Institutionalised Children Explorations and Beyond, 6(2):142-150.


Harrison AM, Beebe B (2018). Rhythms of dialogue in infant research and child analysis: Implicit and explicit forms of therapeutic action, Psychoanalytic Psychology, 35(4):367-381.