"It Doesn’t Matter How Clever You Think You Are" - The Effects of Being Observed in Infant Observation Used in Psychoanalytically Informed Psychotherapy Trainings

McGregor Hepburn, Jan (2018) "It Doesn’t Matter How Clever You Think You Are" - The Effects of Being Observed in Infant Observation Used in Psychoanalytically Informed Psychotherapy Trainings. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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The first research question is - are there effects of being observed in this context, and if so, what are they? I wanted to find out something about the experience from the perspective of the observed participant, and to consider what effects being a subject of such observation might be. As a supervisor of such infant observations I found that the value of the observations for training had been considered and researched but there was little written about the effect of being the subject. The second question is how to research this, and how to evidence conclusions. Thus, the aims of the research also fall into two main areas. To investigate these possible effects could inform the profession about the conduct of such observations, and also could illuminate some psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice. Thinking about how to do this is the second research aim; it led to looking at whether and how qualitative sociological research methodologies and psychoanalytic thinking and enquiry could work together and where the tensions between them might be.

Looking for a congruent qualitative methodology led to learning about Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). I thought this offered the chance of embedding and using my own experiences and understandings in the analysis of the data and I could use semi-structured interviews with dyads of observers and who they observed. The main findings are that it is a process that observed participants find valuable. However, there is an underlying anxiety about being judged negatively, which requires something from the observer to ameliorate. The benefits are chiefly in internal experiences of being held and contained, and having healthy narcissism supported. These assist the mother in her role as the main provider of the facilitating environment in which the infant can thrive. The process of being observed has impact although the observer is only present for a very small part of a week. I have found evidence to suggest that the process of projective identification may be reactive.

The methodological challenge of integrating psychoanalysis and IPA led to another finding. How meaning and existential import are extrapolated in both psychoanalytic enquiry and IPA relies heavily on the researcher’s understanding of the material and the emotional valence surrounding it. Transcribing myself and looking deeply at the transcripts showed many moment-by-moment features which seemed lively and important, but again these were through my own lens and needed some other kinds of evidence. I then examined not only repeated words but pauses and turn-taking and vivid descriptions and quoted speech. With these tools and the use of my reflexivity and countertransference I drew conclusions from the data and also compared the dyads (observer and observed) with each other, and across the two categories.

The findings could have importance in the direct influence on infant observation programmes which are a common part of many trainings, and what effects being observed might have could inform the profession about how they are conducted. The findings could also contribute to a theoretical discussion in psychoanalytic theory and practice about projective identification. The methodological findings attest to the strengths of both IPA and psychoanalytic understanding, but examining patterns of speech and other dynamic aspects of the data along with these methodologies and epistemologies can contribute to evidencing robust findings.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: infant observation, psychoanalytic research, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), healthy narcissism, projective identification
Subjects: B900 Others in Subjects allied to Medicine
C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2019 11:51
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 22:35
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/40258

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