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What if the patient-therapist relationship were (a bit) like infant-mother interactions? (Edward Tronick, Ph.D.Edward Tronick, Ph.D., Massachusetts)

  • 19 May 2024
  • 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Virtual




The processes driving development of a child, primarily those embedded in the parent-child relationship, are the most striking form of human change. Therapy too works to change the functioning of individuals. In this presentation, Dr. Tronick will suggest that the parent-child relaionship qualities that promote change and growth can aid our understanding of the patient- therapist relationship. While the differences between therapy and parent-child relationships are recognized, the basic characteristics of the parent-child relationship, when applied to the therapeutic relationship, may enhance therapeutic change. Using videos from his research on the Still-Face and parent-child interactions, Dr. Tronick will illustrate the necessity of dyadic organization; the fundamental, messy process of meaning making; and the essential function of reparation.

Learning Objectives

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

1. Discuss how Claude Bernard’s view of all biological organisms, including humans, is a brilliant idea, as well as how it fails to account for child’s development.

2. List the significant differences between the therapeutic relationship and the parent-child relationship.

3. Describe the positive effects of a dyad’s ability to engage in reparation of the inevitable mismatching and messiness of interactions.


Ed Tronick is a renowned developmental and clinical psychologist. He

is currently a Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of

Massachusetts Chan Medical School. Formerly, he was an Associate

Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the University

Distinguished Professor at UMass Boston. He is a past member of the

Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, the Boston Process of

Change Group, and a Founder of the Touchpoints program.  He created

the Early Relational Health Fellowship at the Chan Medical School and

the Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship at UC Davis. He developed

the Newborn Behavioral Assessment Scale and the Touchpoints Project

with T.B. Brazelton. With Barry Lester he developed the NICU Network

Neurobehavioral Assessment Scale. He has developed norms for the

neurobehavior of clinically healthy newborns, and currently is

developing individualized interventions for preterm and at-risk infants

based on their neurobehavior. Dr.Tronick developed the Still-Face Paradigm and recently the Caretaker Acute Stress Paradigm. His current research focuses on NIRS and MRI responses to the Still-face and memory for the still-face, including epigenetic processes affecting behavior. He has worked on epidemiologic data sets to understand the nature of the responses to questions related to depression and help seeking of women in different ethnic and racial groups. Recently he has begun research on brain development and parenting of micro-Lemurs. He developed conceptual models based in dynamic systems theory for dyadic infant-mother (adult) interactions, including the Mutual Regulation Model and the Caretaker Buffer-Transducer Model.  He has published more than 300 scientific articles and 8 books, several hundred photographs, and has appeared on national radio and television programs. He lectures on the Still-face, trauma, maternal depression and infant neurobehavior to world-wide clinical audiences. His research has been continuously funded by NICHD and NSF.


Harrison, A., & Tronick, E. (2021). Intersubjectivity: Conceptual considerations in meaning making with a clinical illustration. Frontiers in Psychology, 12(715873). DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.715873

Tronick, E., & Hunter, R. (2020). Keeping complexity in mind. In Tollefsbol, T., Provenzi, L. & Montirosso, R. (Eds.), Developmental human behavioral epigenetics (Vol. 23): Principles, methods, evidence, and future directions (pp. xi-xvi). Academic Press, Elsevier. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-819262-7.09990-6

Tronick, E. (2022). Trauma never occurs only once: Being traumatized by a slap is like making meaning of the game of peek-a-boo. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 32(6), 661-673. DOI: 10.1080/10481885.2022.2138083

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