Centre Alfred-Binet

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The Centre Alfred-Binet (Alfred Binet Center), the department for child and adolescent psychiatry of the Association for Mental Health in Paris, annually receives about two thousand children for consultations and treatment. It is at the center of a group of institutions (Training Club, Foster Home Placement, Adolescent Day Hospital) and operates in coordination with an evening unit (Fondation Lyon) and a specialized homecare unit (Fondation de Rothschild). The system is sector-based, but the center receives 20 percent of its patients from outside of the sector it serves.

Created in 1956 by Serge Lebovici, who was soon joined by René Diatkine, it was the first sector-based center in France for children and adolescents. Breaking with standard practice at the time, the center sought to create essentially outpatient treatment in collaboration with the different institutions in which the children participated. The center was run by psychoanalysts and psychiatrists who were co-opted into the system and who devoted a large part of their time to analysis in an environment of reliable multidisciplinary teams. This fact clearly distinguished this system both from university institutions focused on hospitalization and from a large number of sector services later organized throughout France.

In its development, the center came to rely essentially on psychoanalytic experience and use the mediation of other disciplines. Its practice was progressively elaborated under the influence of its creators, Serge Lebovici until 1978 and René Diatkine until 1994. It continues to have considerable influence on the work of the many public and private practitioners of child psychotherapy and psychiatry who trained in its seminars. The training, while deriving some of its ideas from trends in British psychoanalysis, attempts to define the limits and principles of the analyst's work with children by constantly sorting out what comes from the child and what comes from the environment.

The necessity of working with families in a climate of trust without inappropriate therapeutic or educational aims and generally for long periods of time led the psychoanalysts to adopt extensive therapeutic consultation and a broad range of treatments that allow children to remain in their usual surroundings. Practitioners take into account the varied conflicts in the psychic lives of the children and the pressure of their unconscious transfer/counter-transfer fantasies without any special fascination for the origin of these fantasies. This has led to a concept of child development as being dominated by successive and barely foreseeable deferred actions on the part of children in which games occupy a special place with regard to the appearance of new functions.

In 2004 nearly five hundred people trained at the Centre Alfred-Binet. In spite of its budgetary restrictions, its evolving practice has enabled it to bring together a group of consultants that benefit parents and children and to organize brief therapy sessions aimed at enlarging the range of activities where analysts interact with young children and their families.

GÉrard Lucas

See also: Diatkine, René; Lebovici, Serge Sindel Charles.

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Centre Alfred-Binet