Pioneers in Object Relations Clinical Thinking:
Betty Joseph (1917-2013)

“Melanie Klein used the term ‘position’ rather than ‘organization’, describing two positions-the paranoid-schizoid and the depressive positions. The term ‘position’ implies an attitude of mind, a constellation of conjoint phantasies and relationships to objects with characteristic anxieties and defenses. The notion of positions helps us, as a framework, to orient ourselves in our listening to our patients. We need to get the feeling of the central position in which his mind is currently operating-whether, for example, he is viewing his world, external and internal, more from a depressive stance with a sense of responsibility, pain, and guilt that has to be dealt with or from a more paranoid stance with much splitting off and projection of impulses and parts of the self and much fear, or idealization, of objects, and flight from contact with psychic reality.”

“… discuss how we are using the concept of transference in our clinical work today. My stress will be on the idea of transference as a framework, in which something is always going on, where there is always movement and activity.

Freud’s ideas developed from seeing transference as an obstacle, to seeing it as an essential tool of the analytic process, observing how the patient’s relationships to their original objects were transferred, with all their richness, to the person of the analyst. Strachey (1934), using Melanie Klein’s discoveries on the way in which projection and introjection colour and build up the individual’s inner objects, showed that what is being transferred is not primarily the external objects of the child’s past, but the internal objects, and that the way that these objects are constructed helps us to understand how the analytic process can produce change.”

On April 4th of 2013, the object relations community lost another prominent psychoanalyst who was dedicated to psychoanalytic technique, neo-Kleinian ideas, and child analysis, Betty Joseph.

Below, is the obituary published in the Guardian:

Betty Joseph – obituary
by Michael Feldman and John Steiner, Sunday, June 23, 2013

Betty Joseph held a renowned postgraduate seminar for the British Psychoanalytical Society for nearly 50 years, helping analysts improve their clinical skills

Betty Joseph, who has died aged 96, was one of the most influential psychoanalysts of her generation. Her particular contribution lay in exploring how patients mobilize systems of defense to resist change that threatens them with anxiety.

For example, she described patients who could not face the painful recognition of feelings such as envy or hatred within themselves and dealt with such feelings by projection, attributing the feelings to people in their everyday lives. In the clinical situation the patient may experience the analyst as being filled with these unacceptable feelings, rather than themselves.

She was particularly skilled in following the projections in the analytic session, where they have a powerful impact on the analyst, who may find herself evading her own difficult and sometimes frightening thoughts and feelings, without always being fully aware of what is happening. She believed that the exploration and interpretation of these processes offered the most effective way of bringing about lasting psychic change. Working in this detailed way on what is immediate in the interaction between the patient and analyst requires a degree of courage and the capacity in the analyst to tolerate anxiety, doubt and uncertainty.

Joseph was a dynamic figure and widely admired as a supervisor and teacher. Her students recognized that she had a gift for understanding their patients – and themselves – in a new and deeper way.

The postgraduate seminar that she conducted for the British Psychoanalytical Society for nearly 50 years became renowned: many younger analysts were able to learn and to hone their theoretical understanding and clinical skills there. A selection of her papers was published as Psychic Equilibrium and Psychic Change (1989). Joseph served as chairman of the Melanie Klein Trust (1991-2006), and in 1995 received the Sigourney award.

Well into her 90s, she took delight in discovery. She loved books, travel, art, opera and gardening: best of all, she liked going to the theatre with friends, with a long and lively discussion over a meal afterwards.

The main focus of her interest remained people – working with adult and child patients, getting to know and understand them as well as she could, and engaging with a wide circle of friends and colleagues in many countries. She had a unique capacity to focus her attention, warmth and interest on another person, and to remember all the details of their lives. She was able to hold her own memories and opinions in such a way that they did not interfere with the fine quality of her attention.

Joseph was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham, the second of three children in an Anglo-Jewish family. Her father’s family had emigrated from Alsace in the early-18th century, and established themselves in the Midlands as manufacturing jewelers. Her father trained as an electrical engineer, and he and Betty’s brother built up a successful electrical engineering firm shortly before the second world war.

Like Betty, her mother was a strong personality, on whom the rest of the family came to depend. She went to grammar school in Wolverhampton until the age of 16, when the family moved back to Birmingham. She trained in social work at Birmingham University, and later at the London School of Economics, where she qualified in the early 1940s. At this time, back in the Midlands, she became interested in psychoanalysis. She decided that if she was going to be working with people, she should have an analysis herself, and she began with Michael Balint, a recent refugee from Hungary who was to become a leading member of the Independent Group within the British Psychoanalytical Society. At Balint’s suggestion, she undertook psychoanalytic training in London.

She was, however, characteristically doubtful about her talent for psychoanalytic work and saw herself as a late developer, contrasting herself with her close friends and colleagues, Hanna Segal, Wilfred Bion and Herbert Rosenfeld, whom she regarded as “born analysts”. She went into private practice and the value of her particular approach became increasingly recognized. She was invited to teach at the Institute of Psychoanalysis in London as well as in many centers in Europe, North and South America.

Joseph was very close to her family, particularly her nephew Henry and his wife Katie, their children and their grandchildren, who survive her. She herself remained very vital, with a clear mind, attentive to the needs and feelings of others, to the end of her life.