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Working with the unworkable – a trainee’s case of maternal mourning and ulcerative colitis

Challenor, J. (2013). Working with the unworkable – a trainee’s case of maternal mourning and ulcerative colitis. Psychodynamic Practice, 19(4), pp. 406-411. doi: 10.1080/14753634.2013.772441


In this paper I describe a time-limited piece of work that I undertook as a trainee with a mother whose child had died. The client had developed serious ulcerative colitis and was referred to counselling because she was refusing an operation to treat it. I have conceptualised her illness as the embodiment of her experience of disintegration in grief. As a trainee, I found working in the transference difficult in this case, as though I was betraying the client in some way. The client’s failure to make herself better both from her disease and from mourning her daughter made her continue to feel like a victim. Understanding this as transference and drawing on relational psychoanalytic theory was key to being able to work with her and to begin to make links.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Psychodynamic Practice on 27 February 2013, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Maternal mourning; ulcerative colitis; relational model; supervision; suicide.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Accepted Version
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