Abram & Hinshelwood (2018) The Clinical Paradigms of Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott: Comparisons and Dialogues.

The Clinical Paradigms of Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott: Comparisons and Dialogues.

Jan Abram & R.D. Hinshelwood (2018)

  • ISBN 13 : 9781782203100
  • ISBN 10 : 1782203109

Routledge. 256 pages


Throughout the history of psychoanalysis it has been common for the advocates of different psychoanalytic paradigms to uphold differing world views and to talk past one another, if at all. Written jointly by two leading psychoanalytic scholars, this book breaks with such closed-minded traditions and presents an authentic dialogue. The common origins and points of difference between the psychoanalytical paradigms of Klein and Winnicott are highlighted and discussed in a highly engaging way.

Jan Abram the editor of Winnicott Today (Abram, 2013) and Robert Hinshelwood the author of the Dictionary of Kleinian Thought (Hinshelwood, 1989) talk through their respective positions on fundamental issues. For example, the influence of our earliest experiences with our primary object figures and what they mean when they talk about love and hate. The way in which the book is structured facilitates this discussion. The authors outline their basic positions, summarising points of similarity and difference, and then engage in a brief discussion about the importance of the key points raised. Importantly, the discussion is organic as in takes on new points of departure as their dialogue evolves.

There is something in this book for readers at all levels. For the introductory reader the clear summaries and accessible anecdotes provide points of reference that will help them to find a way into the original works of Klein and Winnicott, both of which can be very obtuse at first reading. For the intermediate reader with an understanding of some of the basic points of departure between Klein and Winnicott the book sheds light upon the origins of their philosophical differences. It also deconstructs stereotypical views of their respective styles, such as the persecutory Kleinian analyst and unboundaried Winnicottian analyst. Advanced readers will find the nuances of the discussion enlightening. The issue of the degree of agency the new born baby has is discussed in particularly thoughtful ways, giving a distinctive psychoanalytical take upon the nature / nurture debate.

As a trainee therapist, I particularly liked the way in which Hinshelwood explained the origins of the concept of projective identification in the paranoid-schizoid position. He illustrates why we can lose the capacity to feel guilt when we experience threats that resonate with early persecutory experiences: this is illustrated through a practical example of why when someone crashes a car into another car it is often the other driver who has to be viewed as at fault. I also liked Abram’s focus upon how the growth of independence is facilitated by the survival of the mother. The aphorism that ‘You have value for me because of your survival of my destruction of you’ is one that I try to hold on to as I am working with my training patients. For me, this is an important book, which will become a key source book and reference in the years to come.

Abram, J. (Ed.) (2013) Donald Winnicott Today. The New Library of Psychoanalysis: Routledge.

Hinshelwood, R.D., (1989) Dictionary of Kleinian Thought. London: Free Association Books

Dr Phil McEvoy

January 2019

Phil McEvoy is Managing Director of Six Degrees Social Enterprise, Salford, a Community Interest Company committed to helping people with mental health problems. He is in training as a psychotherapist on the Tavistock’s Inter-cultural Psychodynamic Psychotherapy pre-qualification course.