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Madeleine Rambert (1900-1979) was a Swiss educator whose interest in developmentally- and emotionally-challenged children led her to pursue studies in the field of psychoanalysis. She was associated with the so-called “Vienna School” of thought popularized by Sigmund Freud and his disciple, Carl Jung, which placed more emphasis on environmental factors in childhood development than in the more traditional schools of thought that emphasized genetic factors. Psychoanalysis sought to delve into the deep recesses of the patient’s mind – in effect, into his or her subconscious – for clues as to why an individual developed mentally the way he or she did. By exposing previously repressed or forgotten incidences in one’s childhood, greater insights can be attained on the patient’s current personality. As a follower of the Vienna School of psychoanalysis, Rambert focused her efforts on working with children and young adults on exposing emotionally-traumatic or formulative periods in a patient’s mental development. Her greatest contribution to the field is considered to be her use of hand puppets to encourage children to express themselves in ways they would otherwise not be so inclined. For example, children asked to pretend a puppet is a particular figure in their lives may respond to the puppet/parent/sibling/teacher/abuser/etc. in a violent manner suggesting deeply repressed feelings of hostility to the individual the puppet represents. In her 1938 study (published in English in 1949), Children in Conflict: Twelve Years of Psychoanalytic Practice, Rambert describes her use of puppets to evoke emotions from children that provide clues as to their underlying problems, for example, sexual or other forms of physical abuse. This process, which she labeled “exteriorization,” was intended to draw out of the child/patient an emotional response that would help explain emotional problems. Once these issues are exposed, they can be neutralized through therapy.
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