École Expérimentale de Bonneuil (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
Theole expérimentale de Bonneuil (Experimental school of Bonneuil) was founded on September 12, 1969 under the leadership of Maud Mannoni.
In his seminar, Jacques Lacan had asked analysts to take a somewhat closer interest in what went on in hospitals, in the belief that analytic discourse could be used to subvert the workings of these structures. In this context, Maud Mannoni began an institutional experiment at the Institut médico-pédagogique (Medical training institute) in Thiais, France. This experiment enabled her to produce Le Psychiatre, son "fou" et la psychanalyse (The psychiatrist, his "madman" and psychoanalysis; 1970), exposing the ways in which psychoanalysis betrays its vocation by participating in the institutional order. Her earlier works were The Backward Child and His Mother: A Psychoanalytic Study (1964/1972), in which she showed that in seeking to treat the symptom the patient's needs were denied, and The Child, His "Illness," and the Others (1967/1970), where she showed that the vision of the "sick person" is warped by one's preconceptions.
Mannoni's encounter with the anti-psychiatrists confirmed her ideas: They, too, were rebelling against any ideology based on "managing" madness, and were returning to Sigmund Freud's suggestion that for the patient, delusions are an attempt at reconstruction. This break with medical thinking occasioned a focus on the idea of segregation that was operative in the traditional psychoanalytic institution and entailed grouping patients into broad categories in psychiatric clinical work.
This principle of nonsegregation that presided over the opening of the Bonneuil facility was made concrete in its ideal mode of operation: One third of the children were autistic or psychotic children, one third were mentally deficient or emotionally disturbed, and one third were suffering from neuroses of varying degrees of severity. This mode of operation made it possible to maintain a mix of symptomatologies that opened up dynamic perspectives, underscoring by this very fact the negative consequences of segregation for the subject, even when segregation was given a new guise and sanctioned by medicine under the name "mental illness." That term implies as an alternative a hypothetical "mental health," which has no place in a psychoanalytic perspective. The fundamental notion of "breaking out" is situated within this ethos of nonsegregation.
A place that is open to the outside rather than a self-enclosed institution cut off from the world (an organism created by normative forces acting against the emergence of foreclosed alternatives, to whose detriment this normativity has been maintained), the ole expérimentale de Bonneuil was accredited as an outpatient hospital with nighttime intake facilities on March 17, 1975, with a capacity of twenty-six children, ages six to eighteen. Daily practice at Bonneuil is based on a psychoanalytic approach. Theory allows for the work of retrospective interpretation that examines individual pathways and institutional avatars. This constant back-and-forth movement between theory and praxisn particular in the numerous work groupsharacterizes the analyst's place in the institution. That place is thus a paradoxical one: Practice is not what establishes analysts in their role, but it is what determines their specific place in this setting and the journey they will make with these troubled children. Cooking, running errands, working alongside artisans or farmers, completing schoolwork, and taking workshopshese activities are seen as so many mediations that make it possible to escape from an imaginary situation in which relations between adult and child are built without reference to any third party. The other possibility created is that the children can become the agents in a story that at some point converges with their own. What makes this legible is the putting into place of a framework, not in the sense of institutional rules, but rather a structure that provides a sense of bearings and facilitates questioning, to guarantee that work will be ongoing. On March 12, 1980, an experimental family placement service was established for patients from eighteen to twenty-five years old. Since September 1, 1995, family placement has existed for patients older than twenty-five.
See also: Infantile psychosis; Infantile schizophrenia; Mannoni-Van der Spoel, Maud; Technique with children, psychoanalytic.
Mannoni, Maud. (1972). The backward child and his mother: a psychoanalytic study. (A. M. Sheridan Smith, Trans.). New York: Pantheon Books. (Original work published 1964)
. (1970). The child, his "illness," and the others. New York: Pantheon Books. (Original work published 1967)
. (1970). Le psychiatre, son "fou" et la psychanalyse. Paris: Seuil.