Juniper on the couch

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, October 25, 2006 |

I just found this story in the Wall Street Journal called Sending baby to the shrink: Infant psychotherapy gains favor among parents. It contained the following text:

Therapists are increasingly moving their treatments from the couch to the crib. While the field of infant mental health -- which encompasses the study of children from birth through age three -- has been around for decades, new research on everything from brain development to maternal depression is giving it a boost. A widely used mental health and development diagnostic manual for infants was revised last year for the first time since 1994 to include two new subsets of depression, five new subsets of anxiety disorders (including separation anxiety and social anxiety disorders) and six new subsets of feeding behavior disorders (including sensory food aversions and infantile anorexia).

Wow. I have nothing against therapy, I know a lot of people who have been helped by therapy and I know a lot of people who should be in therapy. But infant psychotherapy? The a
rticle describes psychotherapists working with 11-month olds. How does that even work? Seriously, do all these people on the Upper East Side have way too much time on their hands, or what?

I tried to imagine what psychotherapy and a 21-month old might look like:

Therapist: So, Juniper, tell me about your father.
Juniper: Snow monkeys!
Therapist: Your father is a snow monkey?
Juniper: Yeah.
Therapist: Interesting. How does that make you feel?
Juniper: Apple?
Therapist: Happy, are you trying to say happy?
Juniper: Apple, apple apple!
Therapist: What do you think this "apple" represents to you? Do you dream about apples?
Juniper: Apple, peel!
Therapist: Why don't we talk about your mother.
Juniper: Mama?
Therapist: Yes, Juniper, tell me how you feel about your mother.
Juniper: Apple! Apple! APPLE!

Therapist [jotting down note: clearly the subject has projected her anxieties about weaning onto the nearest-available similarly sized fruit]: So, Juniper, do you miss your mama's booboobs?
Juniper: Dada boobobs.
Therapist: Are you saying your father has breasts, Juniper?
Juniper: Yeah.
Therapist [jotting: clearly, the father's handling of traditionally feminine responsibilities has confused the subject with respect to male/female anatomy, that is, unless her father is quite a fat ass]: Let's delve into this a bit further, Juniper, perhaps your issue is not with your father's breasts, but with your own. Perhaps you are really talking about yourself?
Juniper: [holding copy of Elmo's Alphabet] Read! Read! Read!
Therapist: Ah, literature. What an excellent idea. Perhaps we should discuss what it is about this book you find meaningful. Is there a particular character in this novel you identify with?
Juniper: Elmo!
Therapist: What it is about this "Elmo" that means something to you?
Juniper: Elmo, read!
Therapist: Ah, is it that this "Elmo" is capable of reciting his ABCs and 123s, and even on some rudimentary level capable of "reading," that bothers you, and do you perhaps find that this relates in some way to your parents pressuring you to recite such schoolyard rhymes yourself, and, also, their imploring you to imitate the sounds made by horses and sheep, thus dredging up anxieties related to your inability to meet their heightened expectations?
Juniper: Horseys! Horseys!
Therapist: Ah yes, horses and young girls. This is fabulous [jotting down notes for an article he is planning to publish in the
Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology], I've never encountered that primitive autoerotic desire in a patient so young before. Tell, me Juniper, what is it about horses that interests you? Is it the nurturing or care you provide the horse, or perhaps you enjoy the experience of mounting the horse to master it? Or is it merely the rhythmic pleasure of riding the horse that interests you?
Juniper: Horsey ride?
Therapist: Ah, yes, the riding, I see. Tell me, what is it about the riding that you like?
Juniper [visibly upset] Horsey ride! Horsey ride!
Therapist: Calm down, Juniper [jotting: patient visibly upset by delving into her obsession with equestrianism; indications of repressed desires; explore further next session] Juniper, please tell me a little bit more about your father.
Juniper: Snow monkeys!
Therapist: Yes, the snow monkey with man boobs. How do you feel about him?
Juniper: Apple, peel?
Therapist [jotting: patient expresses strange associate between her father, apples, and snow monkeys, explore further next time] Well, that's excellent, Juniper, I think we covered a lot of ground today, but there are a lot of questions I have that are still unanswered. That said, I think we've made a lot of progress. Please drop off a check for $280 with my secretary on your way out.
Juniper: Apple?
Therapist: I'm sorry, Juniper, but our time is up for today.