MINDinMIND Live Legacy Interview with acclaimed perinatal clinician, Dr Amanda Jones

This legacy interview focussed on sharing Dr Amanda Jones’ pioneering work as a Consultant Perinatal Psychotherapist.

Amanda has been an advocate for the public funded provision of perinatal psychotherapeutic and perinatal medical (psychiatric) care. She leads a multi-professional community Perinatal Parent Infant Mental Health Service.

She says parents and babies present with a wide range of symptoms and suffering, often starting before or during the pregnancy, and so different psychological and medication treatments need to be available.

Amanda enjoys the challenge of considering the complexity of the family system and the intergenerational influences that can haunt the new parent/baby relationship, and she is known for sharing her understanding of how psychodynamic parent infant therapy can be a powerful therapeutic approach, one that involves working with the parent/s and babies together.

Dr Amanda Jones’ work has inspired people around the world who work with parents and babies, through several TV documentaries and series appearances, including the award-winning, ‘Help Me Love My Baby’.

One of Amanda’s key skills is being able to communicate with parents and professionals about what might be going on. ‘Some central theories always help me when I’m trying to understand what’s going on for a parent. My work often involves, in a way, translating these theories into a language of ordinary, often conflicting emotions and wishes, which I can share, hopefully in ways that make sense to both the families and other professionals.’

Key areas of discussion with Amanda:

– Risks and challenges involved in working with parents who fear their babies and who find it hard to feel loving. Amanda will share her interest in how parental projections can be intrusive for a baby and impede a baby’s development.

– What is ‘good enough’: how to think about parental care and the lived experiences and revived childhood feelings that can make parenting painful

– The reality of a baby’s dependency and relentless needs can reawaken parental traumas. Amanda will discuss how she works psychotherapeutically with parents with disturbing early histories and how she draws upon Alicia Lieberman and Arietta Slade’s insights into working with malignant and benevolent parental ghosts

– Amanda will discuss what happens when a parent’s internal ‘care system’ (Jaak Panksepp) has broken down leading to a painfully mis-attuned relationship with their babies.

– Understanding human defensive processes that can be understandably activated in everyone involved with perinatal care – the parents and professionals – but especially the parent following their baby’s birth (Amanda’s doctoral research focussed on this)

– Being alive to the transference dynamics between a parent and their baby and our own countertransference experiences.

– Amanda will talk about the critical role of supervision

– The impact of multi-agency work and how families can benefit from carefully considered ‘shared thinking’ creating a metaphorical ‘safety net’ for a baby and their parent/s

– Safeguarding: working with high risk and how to maintain, or recover, the capacity to think when emotions escalate

– The statutory requirement to document: whilst this is necessary and helpful it can also take us away from spending time with families. How to work with this tension?

– And, finally, two key ingredients babies bring – first, the possibility of a baby’s new life often helps parents find the courage and motivation to try and work through difficulties. Second, the inherent vulnerability combined with a baby’s innocent humour can soften tension, awaken protective feelings (in parent and professional), and inspire everyone to keep on trying

I was in conversation with Amanda and there was time for questions from the audience at the end.

Jane O’Rourke
Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist
Founder, MINDinMIND

More about Dr Amanda Jones

Dr Amanda Jones is Psychological Professional Lead and Consultant Perinatal Psychotherapist for NELFT NHS Foundation Trust’s Perinatal Parent Infant Mental Health Service (PPIMHS).

PPIMHS is a publicly funded multidisciplinary community perinatal service offering psychiatric and psychotherapy treatment to pregnant women and their partners experiencing serious mental/emotional illness during pregnancy and postnatally. Therapy for complex cases can continue until the baby reaches three years of age (to help the parent and baby through many touchpoint developmental stages). The team is made up of perinatal psychological therapists, perinatal psychiatrists, perinatal community mental health practitioners and perinatal nursery nurses.

Amanda trained as a Systemic Psychotherapist.

Her doctoral research at the Tavistock Centre/University of East London studied how mothers’ use of maladaptive defensive processes can derail their baby’s development.

In collaboration with Channel 4 and the Anna Freud Centre, Amanda was the therapist in the series Help Me Love My Baby, winner of the Royal Television Society’s best educational programme. Amanda speaks nationally and internationally on the subject of understanding and helping perinatal mental/emotional illness.

More about MINDinMIND

On MINDinMIND you’ll find some of the world’s leading clinicians and wisest minds working in child mental health. T hey are sharing what they know about what best helps children and families.

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