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Dr Jeanne Magagna

Dr Jeanne Magagna is a Child, Adolescent and Family Psychotherapist, who during a career spanning more than fifty years has contributed substantially to the field of child mental health.

Jeanne led the Psychotherapy Services at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London for 24 years where she specialised in eating disorders. Her latest book Psychotherapeutic Understanding of Children and Young People with Eating Disorders has just been published. In this interview with Jane O’Rourke, her psychoanalytically informed perspectives on the factors that contribute to eating disorders, and how they are best treated, will offer you fresh insights. She also insists that with the right care, no young person should ever die of an eating disorder.

Jeanne explains why the art of observing babies, a technique based on the model taught by the Tavistock Clinic which she has taught all over the world, can transform our understanding of children and their families.

She describes what it was like to learn the craft from the originator of infant observation, Esther Bick. Being taught by Mrs. Bick, Jeanne says was an inspiring experience though also challenging as, “Mrs. Bick was in touch with the powerful anxieties of infancy as she faced the end of her life”.

Jeanne also describes how it is possible for parents to learn infant observation to deepen their understanding of their children. This led her to inspiring a very special nursery in Rome and she wrote a book with them, ‘Being Present for your Nursery Age Child’.

Somehow during a very busy clinical career, Jeanne has found time to write over 90 articles and books.  She says her most important book is The Silent Child: Communication without Words, in which describes her work with children who aren’t speaking, walking or eating.

Of course, by their very nature, silent children are difficult to treat in talking therapies, but Jeanne’s skill in observation has made her a particularly insightful clinician and in doing so, she has helped children to have their voices heard and save their lives.  Jeanne’s capacity for careful observation was honed at a very early age, which is why it felt appropriate to begin this interview by asking her about her childhood and its influence on her work.

For more interviews from leading practitioners in child mental health visit our interviews page.

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