Based on their experience with such children in local child guidance settings, the authors identify problems and gather them together into the following categories: containment and attachment difficulties, issues arising from identification, problems relating to blame, shame and guilt, and the impact on basic thinking. Clinical material from two children in long-term intensive therapy is presented. A personal diary account of a fourteen-year old boy with a mentally ill mother is also included.
The difficulties which these children experience are described from the intimacy of the consulting room in an attempt to increase understanding and empathy while bearing in mind factors which can contribute to resilience. The role of the analytic psychotherapist as a containment and transference figure in the lives of these children who face the reality of living close to an extremely ill parent is considered.