Skip to main content
Harvard University Press - home


Adam Phillips

ISBN 9780674953611

Publication date: 07/26/1989

Although he founded no school of his own, D. W. Winnicott (1896–1971) is now regarded as one of the most influential contributors to psychoanalysis since Freud. In over forty years of clinical practice, he brought unprecedented skill and intuition to the psychoanalysis of children. This critical new work by Adam Phillips presents the best short introduction to the thought and practice of Winnicott that is currently available.

Winnicott’s work was devoted to the recognition and description of the good mother and the use of the mother–infant relationship as the model of psychoanalytic treatment. His belief in natural development became a covert critique of overinterpretative methods of psychoanalysis. He combined his idiosyncratic approach to psychoanalysis with a willingness to make his work available to nonspecialist audiences. In this book Winnicott takes his place with Melanie Klein and Jacques Lacan as one of the great innovators within the psychoanalytic tradition.


  • A charming new book…that sums up the work of the British psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott, the only major therapist I know of whose language would have pleased a poet… [Winnicott’s] depiction of the beginning of human life is a kind of wry sublime. The infant’s relation to his mother, he says, is one of utter ruthlessness. He uses her in an absolute way, as if this were her destiny. Gradually, by making herself less available to him, the mother ‘disillusions’ the infant. Then, the wind knocked out of him, he is obliged to reconsider his ruthlessness… According to Mr. Phillips, Winnicott believed that this early experience sets a pattern for life, which is ‘a continual and increasingly sophisticated illusionment—disillusionment—re-illusionment process.’ Winnicott suggested that the artist’s ruthlessness resembled, even repeated, the infant’s. In the absence of a mother, the critic has to disillusion and re-illusion the artist. In therapy, the analyst does it for the patient.

    —Anatole Broyard, New York Times Book Review


  • Adam Phillips is Principal Child Psychotherapist in the Wolverton Gardens Child and Family Consultation Centre, London.

Book Details

  • 188 pages
  • 5-7/16 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

From this author