Autism and psychoanalysis today

The website of CIPPA, Coordination Internationale entre Psychotherapeutes Psychanalystes s’occupant de personnes avec Autisme [International Association of Psychotherapists and Psychoanalysts working with people with Autism]

Membership of CIPPA, an association founded in accordance with the French law of 1901, is open to leaders of professional teams making use of the applications of Freudian psychoanalysis for the benefit of persons with autism. The aims of CIPPA include

  • To promote the sharing of members’ research on best practice and on its evaluation;
  • To promote joined-up working between psychoanalysts and the other professionals involved in the care of persons with autism;
  • To consider the best ways of supporting families, and of establishing the partnership with them that is indispensable to a satisfactory outcome;
  • To promote links with the exponents of other scientific approaches to autism.

We are profoundly concerned by the splits and conflicts between psychodynamic and educational approaches to autism that have arisen between some institutions and even within them, and that have been heightened by some sections of the media. We therefore think it is imperative to promote a wider and more accurate knowledge of our psychoanalytic practice, which advocates the integration of these two approaches.

Many parents, whose pain and courage we know and with whom we have been able to establish a genuine partnership, have mentioned their regret at our absence on the Internet, as have many researchers.

In this spirit, we shall make available the findings of our research and practice, to further a more widespread understanding of what a psychoanalytic approach can offer to a person with autism, whether in childhood, in adolescence, or in adulthood. Such an approach takes place within an appropriate environment that helps the person with autism to become better equipped to understand his or her surroundings, to communicate and to consolidate an individual sense of identity.

Help with managing bodily anxieties, fantasies and painful experiences (which can be a particular issue when people with autism become more clearly aware of being different) can enable them to make much fuller use of educational opportunities. This in turn ameliorates many emotional difficulties. We feel that respect for people with autism entails recognition of every aspect of their being and personality.

With these aims in view, CIPPA organises general meetings of its membership several times a year to work on topics such as:

  • Joint working between psychotherapists, special needs teachers and teachers
  • The interface between clinical psychoanalysis, cognitive science, neuroscience, biology and genetics
  • Assessment: the use of standardised instruments for assessing cognitive and personality functioning in conjunction with clinical observation
  • The emergence of language
  • High-functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Autism in adolescence and adulthood

Local groups exist in various French regions, and the membership includes professionals from Great Britain, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Poland and Portugal. A media group monitors relevant publications in France and abroad.

Members of CIPPA are requested to complete a written account of one or two of their psychotherapeutic interventions (on an individual or group basis) including:

  • Assessment methods used diagnostically/in the course of treatment
  • The nature of partnership working with the family
  • The integration of the therapy with the other kinds of input offered

To conclude this introduction to our website, let us quote from Sigmund Freud and Jean Piaget:

‘A treatment that combines analysis and educational methods, conducted by people who do not disdain to concern themselves with the environment the child lives in and who cooperate in finding a way in to the child’s emotional life, manages to achieve two things at once: to eliminate the symptoms and to reverse the changes in character…’ [Freud 1926, Lay Analysis, Standard Edition vol ]

‘The day will come when cognitive psychology and psychoanalysis will be obliged to merge into a general theory that will improve both by correcting each’ [Piaget, Problems of Genetic Psychology 1972, Denoel mediations, Nr. 95]

D. Amy, president