A normally developing 5-year-old offers numerous illustrations of dilemmas that we face into adulthood: attachment threats, the comfort that comes from moments of mirroring and being seen, the pleasure in compliments, and more. This somewhat tongue-in-cheek presentation will discuss everyday adult pathologies through the lens of a 5-year-old’s normal behavior. The presentation will consider their echoes in therapy enactments, presenting problems, and descriptions of everyday life. As clinicians, it is helpful to recognize the developmental underpinnings of exasperating adult behavior. For example, an ordinary moment in therapy that many of us are now familiar with is the worry, even despair, that attends texting in the beginning of a patient’s romantic relationship. Yet the underlying questions and concerns are familiar: “Do I exist for you?” “Am I still here?” “Are you still there?” Spend any time around young children and the developmentally normal need to have these questions answered, again and again, becomes clear.

Learning Objectives: After attending this program in full, participants will be able to:

  1. Be able to define self- and interactive regulation and understand how these are managed in relationships, particularly the parent-child dyad and the therapy dyad.
  2. Name three behaviors that are used by members of a dyad for self- and interactive-regulation and discuss how they interact together to maintain or break connections.
  3. Recognize and discuss 3 kinds of adult dilemmas that reflect developmental needs within a dyad.

Dr. Hallie Kushner earned a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago’s interdisciplinary Department of Comparative Human Development, where she was exposed to the twists and turns of overlapping, conflicting, or otherwise colliding theories about developmental normality, health, and healing. She completed her internship and postdoctoral fellowship at Pennsylvania Hospital. In addition to private practice, Dr. Kushner continues to work psychoanalytically with diverse patient populations at Drexel University College of Medicine’s Center City Clinic.


Beebe, B. (2010). Mother-infant research informs mother-infant treatment. Clinical Social Work Journal, 38, 17-36.

Holmes, Jeremy. (2010). Integration in psychoanalytic psychotherapy—an attachment meta-perspective. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 24(3), 183-201.

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