NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, September 26, 2016

Books: "Tea With Winnicott" at 87 Chester Square

In the book, Tea With Winnicott, Brett Kahr imagines what it might be like to bring back the British psychoanalyst and pediatrician, Donald W. Winnicott, who died in 1971, to interview him about his life and his work.

"Tea With Winnicott" at 87 Chester Square

The book is part of a series called Interviews with Icons, which are "posthumous interviews" with famous psychoanalysts.

In a poignant, imagined dialogue, Brett Kahr, who also wrote D.W. Winnicott: A Biographical Portrait, does an imaginary interview with Winnicott at Winnicott's consulting room at 87 Chester Square in London.

The book is wonderfully illustrated by Alison Bechtel.

Winnicott's former secretary makes them tea and sandwiches as they delve into the most important aspects of his life.

When I was in psychoanalytic training 20 years ago, I remember being drawn to Winnicott's books and papers more than any other theorist that we read. He has influenced my work more than any other psychoanalyst.

Through his writing, you could sense Winnicott's unique compassionate understanding about adults and infants (he was also a pediatrician), and he has been a valuable guide for new and experienced therapists all over the world.

"Tea With Winnicott" at 87 Chester Square

Kahr's book is organized in a way that helps clinicians and clients alike understand how Winnicott's early life influenced his theories about infants and adults.

Even experienced therapists, who have read Winnicott's papers and the various biographies about him, will find interesting stories about his personal life and his work.

Since it appears that Winnicott's mother, although loving and kind, was also depressed, there has been speculation that this might have influenced Winnicott's choice to become a psychoanalyst.

The section about Winnicott's early life shows how his own childhood influenced his psychoanalytic theories, especially the fact that he came from a loving home surrounded by his mother and other women in the household.

In his time, Winnicott had to navigate between the two predominant theorists of his time, Anna Freud and Melanie Klein.  Kahr provides interesting insights into what was going on in the psychoanalytic world at that time and how Winnicott was able to form the "Middle School."

Reading "Tea With Winnicott," you can easily imagine yourself sitting for a chat with this approachable psychotherapist and immersing yourself in his world.  The book is entertaining and accessible.

Much of what we now take for granted about raising a child and mother-child relationships originated with Winnicott.  His phrase "the good enough mother" conveyed that a mother didn't need to be "perfect," she just needed to be good enough.

His philosophy about the mother-child relationship was similar to his philosophy about the therapist-client relationship with regard to creating a safe, holding environment and repairing any ruptures in the relationship (see my articles:  The Creation of the Holding Environment in Psychotherapy and On Being Alone).

In the late 1930s, Winnicott did broadcasts on the BBC radio where he addressed mothers in a personal and reassuring way.  His talks weren't about giving advice to mother.  Instead, his talks provided mothers with basic information about an infant's needs and how to foster a loving, safe environment for the baby.

These BBC talks were very popular.  It was evident that Winnicott respected mothers and never talked down to them.  During his time, he reached millions of listeners.

"Tea With Winnicott" at 87 Chester Square

The "interview" also deals with some controversial issues, including Winnicott's relationship with Masud Khan, who was an analysand as well as a colleague of Winnicott's.  It also deals with his first marriage to his wife, Alice.

Although Winnicott died in 1971, leaving behind many volumes of books and letters that he wrote, he  still remains one of the most influential and popular psychoanalysts all these years later.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Winnicott or the history of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

The format of the book is ideal for making a play, and I hope that someone will take on the project of producing the play in NYC.

About Me
I am a NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapists who works with individuals and adults.

I am also psychoanalytically trained and work in a contemporary, dynamic and collaborative way.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.