Child observation and emotional discomfort: the experience of trainee psychologists

Boyd, Felicity and Ivey, Gavin ORCID: 0000-0002-5537-3504 (2023) Child observation and emotional discomfort: the experience of trainee psychologists. Infant Observation. ISSN 1369-8036


Young Child Observation (YCO) is a foundational component of psychoanalytic training in many parts of the world and has been adapted for various training courses in psychology, psychotherapy, education and social work. While the professional benefits of YCO are established, the experience of observers conducting observations outside of traditional psychoanalytic training settings is under-researched. YCO observers experience significant emotional discomfort; however, this has not been well documented, nor has its impact on observers and their professional development. This study addresses that gap by analysing the emotional discomfort experienced by 10 postgraduate psychology students from a single university, who completed a seven-week YCO and wrote self-reflective reports on their personal experience. Participant reports and notes from each completed observation were analysed using Reflective Thematic Analysis. Three main themes were identified: Managing the Observer Role, The Struggle for Belonging, and Countertransference. Participants reported a range of experiences eliciting emotional discomfort, which, in the course of individual and supervision group reflection, led to personal and professional development. Findings from this study indicate that a short YCO enriches the quality of professional psychological training, even when this training is not explicitly psychoanalytic in nature.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1080/13698036.2023.2179522
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 5203 Clinical and health psychology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords young child observation; psychologist training; emotional discomfort; reflective thematic analysis; Esther Bick; psychoanalytic research; qualititative research
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