Studying the process of psychoanalytic parent–infant psychotherapy: Embodied and discursive aspects

Evrinomy Avdi, Keren Amiran, Tessa Baradon, Carol Broughton, Michelle Sleed, Rose Spencer, Dana Shai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents findings from an intensive, mixed methods case study of one session of psychoanalytic parent–infant psychotherapy (PPIP) addressing early relational trauma, and aims to shed light on the multimodal interactive processes that take place in the moment-to-moment exchanges comprising the therapeutic encounter. Different research methods were used on video material from PPIP sessions, including microanalysis of adult–infant interactions, discourse analysis of talk, and coding systems developed to study parent–infant interaction. These different perspectives were brought together with the clinical narrative to illuminate the complex, dynamic processes of parent–infant–therapist interaction. More specifically, the detailed analysis of one interactive episode revealed brief behavioral manifestations of fearful and disoriented states of mind, reflecting dysregulated interaction between mother and infant, which also powerfully affected the therapist. The processes through which the therapist gradually resolves this rupture are also described in detail. Through this pilot study, we were able to show that it is possible to systematically study the process of PPIP. The study contributes to the growing psychotherapy research literature that takes into account both the verbal domain and implicit, interactional processes in therapeutic practice, and underscores the therapist's comprehensive engagement in the therapeutic process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-602
Number of pages14
JournalInfant Mental Health Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health


  • implicit domain
  • multimodal communication
  • parent–infant psychotherapy
  • process research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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