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How Playing with Babies Made Me a Better Therapist (Beatrice Beebe, PhD - New York)

  • 27 Mar 2022
  • 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Virtual meeting


Registration is closed

This program has been supported by a generous contribution

from the Sophie L. Lovinger Memorial Fund


Meanings are co-created through actions, as well through language – the “actiondialogue.” Forms of correspondence are nonverbal modes of entering into, acknowledging, ”going with,” or resonating with the partner’s action dialogue, largely out of awareness. These are split-second procedural action-sequence coordinations with the partner’s actions – in gaze, face, head, hand, foot, and vocal rhythm and prosody. In this presentation I review my five decades of learning to play with infants. I trace through video examples how I learned to see the infant’s nonverbal language, and how I changed. I learned, out of awareness, to do less, and that “less is more;” to go slow, to not try to make the infant smile but rather pay careful attention to the infant’s communication, to join increments of distress, to join the dampened state, to join the cry rhythm. After playing with an infant, I studied the films to try to understand better what worked or did not work in engaging the infant. Gradually I realized that my procedural action dialogue knowledge with the infants helped me emotionally connect with my adult

patients. These forms of correspondence bring us to the clinical moment. They are relevant to infant, child and adult treatment. I illustrate them with video examples from infancy and from an adult treatment.

Learning Objectives 

At the end of this presentation participants will be able to:

1. Give an example of how Dr. Beebe changed the way she plays with babies, and explain its relevance to clinical work. 

2. Give two examples of forms of correspondence in mother-infant interaction and how clinicians can use these forms of correspondence to help mothers connect with their infants.

3. Give two examples of forms of correspondence in the adult treatment videos presented and how they can help clinicians engage more effectively with their patients.


Beatrice Beebe is an internationally recognized developmental and clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. She is an infant researcher known for both video microanalysis of mother-infant interaction and its implications for infant and adult treatment. She has published 6 books, 75 peer-reviewed articles, 20 chapters; and she has given 90 peer-reviewed research conference contributions, and 200 national/ international lectures. Her frame-by-frame video microanalyses provide a “social microscope” that reveals subtle details of interactions too rapid to grasp in real time with the naked eye. Her microscope has illuminated a dyadic systems view of communication; the origins of attachment; and the effects of risk conditions on mother-infant communication, such as maternal self-criticism, depression and anxiety, infant prematurity, and being pregnant and widowed on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center bombing. More than 100 students have been trained in her research laboratory at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University Medical Center over the last two decades. 

Associated Reading
Beebe, B. Hoven, C.W., Kaitz, M., Steele, M., Musa, G., Margolis, A., Ewing, J. Sossin, K. M.,Lee, S.H.(2020).Urgent engagement in 9/11 pregnant widows and their Infants at 4 months: transmission of trauma. Infancy,25:165–189. DOI: 10.1111/infa.12323

Beebe, B. & Lachmann, F. (2020). Infant Research and Adult Treatment Revisited: Co-Creating Self- and Interactive Regulation. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 37,313–

Sandberg, L. & Beebe, B. (2020). A patient who does not look: A collaborative treatment with video feedback. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 30, 479-498.

Beebe, B., Sossin, K. M., Cohen, P., Moskowitz, S., Reiswig, R., Tortora, S., & Demetri Friedman, D. (2021) Close Observation of Mother-Infant Interactive Process in the Wake of Traumatic Loss: The September 11, 2001 Primary Prevention Project. Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 18:3, 314-335, DOI: 10.1080/1551806X.2021.1953869

Contributions to the The Sophie L. Lovinger Memorial Fund can be sent to Brenda Lovegrove Lepisto, Psy.D., President, 1832 Yosemite Drive, Okemos MI 48864.

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