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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Unconscious communication of children in psychotherapy : analysis of sessions with respect to variables pertaining to Langsian ground rules of psychotherapeutic relationship Bonac, Vesna A.


The central thesis of this study says that the ground rules and boundaries of the psychotherapeutic relationship (the frame), as defined by Robert Langs for adults and adolescents, are the same for children. Transcripts from memory of verbalisation and behaviours from 12 sessions of children in individual psychotherapy were analyzed with the purpose to test Langsian communicative psychoanalytic hypotheses. Unconscious communications were analyzed in accordance with Langs' theories to determine the impact of the state of the frame on children. The dependent variable, unconscious communication, was analyzed with respect to the following nine independent variables of the frame: (a) change in therapy rooms, (b) audio recording of session, (c) missed sessions and holidays, (d) therapist's contact third parties, (e) disruption of session, (f) time extension and time reduction of session, (g) observation mirror, (h) forced termination of treatment, and (i) touching toys. The analysis of data was limited to: (a) triggers, (b) polarity of themes and images, (c) perceptions of the therapist, (d) models of rectification, and (e) vicissitudes of resistances. This is a limited, multiple case empirical study of two boys (ages 5 and 11) and one girl (age 6) in individual psychotherapy in a public clinic setting. The process of unconscious validation and non-validation by the client was used to determine the correctness of individual hypotheses, which were formed for each session on the basis of the state of the frame. Conclusive empirical proof of the effects of three types of breaks in the frame on the process of child psychotherapy is presented: contact with third parties, observation mirror, and changing the time for sessions adversely influence the process of child psychotherapy. These three findings were made possible because the available data included the breaking as well as securing of the frame which permitted the execution of complete Langsian analysis. Each of the three instances represents a piece of conclusive evidence of the predictive value of Langs' theory regarding children and therefore conclusive evidence of the three aspects of the basic thesis of this study. The analysis of data revealed that the individual Langsian hypotheses were correct in all instances. The analysis also revealed that none of the data would satisfy a rival hypothesis which would propose an outcome opposite to Langsian hypotheses. A limitation of the study is the fact that the majority of available data contained material that allowed only partial Langsian analysis of the impact of the frame on the child. Further studies of secure frame psychotherapy are needed to complete the set of ground rules and boundaries of child psychotherapy by empirical means.

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