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Keeping mother alive: psychotherapy with a teenage mother following human trafficking

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The power of new traumatic events to reignite memories and the distress of traumatic experiences earlier in life is well known to psychotherapists. When the recent trauma has been extreme, the task of assisting the patient to understand their response in the light of their earlier experience can be doubly challenging. This paper describes the therapy with an adolescent girl and her infant daughter, following the girl's escape from illegal detention, physical abuse and forced prostitution, after she was trafficked to the UK from Eastern Europe. The discussion works towards developing an understanding of the emotional interchange between the mother and infant, and the influence of the mother's traumatic experiences, on that interchange. Projective identification could be seen to occur from the mother, into her daughter, in a reversal of the situation traditionally described. The function of this for the mother and the impact on the developing infant, are considered.
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Keywords: PTSD; Psychoanalytic psychotherapy; dead mother; mother-infant; projective identification

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Mater Child and Youth Mental Health Service, Kids in Mind, Yeronga Clinic, Yeronga, Queensland, Australia

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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