A psychodynamic approach in the work with a depressed mother

A practitioner researcher approach – Dr George Karpetis – which aims to understand practice through reflexivity and to improve service effectiveness (Gibbs, 2001). The present study adopts process reflection that draws on psychodynamic theory and studies both conscious and unconscious aspects of practice (Ruch, 2007). The author studied his own social work practice in a Community Mental Health Centre (CMHC) for Children and Adolescents. Both the practitioner and the multidisciplinary team employed the psychodynamic approach in their clinical practice and worked together throughout the assessment and intervention process. The assessment of the parents and the provision of supportive counselling was regarded a vital part of clinical practice. The mother approached the CMHC regarding her daughter’s denial to go to the first grade of the primary school. Of the 18 fortnightly sessions the practitioner had with the family (Karpetis, 2010) over a period of one and a half year (Karpetis, 2012), ten were with the mother. During the parent assessment phase, depressive symptoms and dependent personality characteristics of the mother became apparent and were accordingly connected to her own psychosocial history and the relationship with her husband. The study presents (i) the way the depression of the mother contributed in the production of child psychopathology and (ii) the specific intervention techniques the practitioner employed in order to deal with maternal psychopathology. The disappearance of the child’s symptoms was the outcome of the insights the mother acquired on the relational causes of her own emotional problems and accordingly of the recession of her depressive symptoms. The family was understood as a defensive organization in which each member has unconsciously chosen the other in order to fit with his/her own projections (Bower, 2005). Recognition of transference and countertransference issues as well as understanding of the maternal resistances and defence mechanisms was important parameters of the intervention.

Dr George Karpetis is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the Charles Darwin University, Australia. He has worked as a clinician for 12 years in various mental health services in Greece and he is a registered social worker.  Dr Karpetis will be presenting this topic in detail at the 14th International Mental Health Conference being held at the Outrigger, Surfers Paradise on Monday the 5th and Tuesday the 6th of August 2013.

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