Encountering Autism: The Analyst’s Inner Workspace and the Language of Emptiness and Suchness


This presentation features a discussion between Eaton and Durbantwo psychoanalysts who have spent decades treating children on the Autistic Spectrum. Building on the work of Klein, Bion, Tustin, Meltzer, Alvarez, Rhode, Houzel, and others, both presenters have developed perspectives on how working with autistic states of mind differ from neurotic, psychotic, and narcissistic configurations. Both theoretical and technical issues will be considered. The aim of the meeting is to offer personal realizations gained from the clinical encounter and to share how these encounters with autism have impacted the inner workspace of the analyst. Attention is given to the challenge of registering and welcoming primitive levels of communication in order to make emotional contact with difficult to reach patients. Central to this emotional contact is the analyst’s openness to absorb and be absorbed by the autistic variant of emptiness and suchness. These concepts will be examined from both the clinical and Buddhist perspectives. 

Jeffrey L. Eaton, Joshua (Shuki) Durban

  Jeffrey L. Eaton, MA, FIPA, is a graduate and faculty member of the Northwestern Psychoanalytic Society and Institute in Seattle, WA, USA. In 2006 he received the Frances Tustin Memorial Trust Lecture Prize. He is author of A Fruitful Harvest: Essays after Bion and many chapters in edited collections. He has been Margaret Jarvie Memorial Lecturer at The University of Edinburgh and Beeta Rank Memorial Lecturer at Boston Psychoanalytic Society. In 2017 he was International Guest Lecturer for The Australian Psychoanalytic Society. For over a decade he was Senior Consulting Psychotherapist for Gunawirra Foundation in New South Wales providing consultation to psychotherapists working with at risk Aboriginal children and mother-infant groups. He also spent many years as an Instructor and Consultant for the Alliance Community Psychotherapy Clinic, a program providing psychoanalytic psychotherapy to chronically mentally ill adults.   

Joshua (Shuki) Durban is a training and supervising child and adult psychoanalyst at the Israel Psychoanalytic Society and Institute where he also teaches. He is on the faculty of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, The Psychotherapy Program, Primitive Mental States track and the Post-Graduate Kleinian Studies track. He is the scientific co-editor (with Dr. Meirav Roth) of the Hebrew edition of the collected works of Melanie Klein. He is a member of the IPA inter-committee for the prevention of child abuse. He serves as an advisor and supervisor for national and international projects on the subject. He works in private practice in Tel-Aviv with children, adolescents and adults and specializes in the psychoanalysis of ASD and psychotic children and adults. His papers were printed in journals such as: IJPA, Psyche, The Journal of Child Psychotherapy, Free Associations, Ethos and The American Journal of Psychotherapy. His work was translated into French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. He has also contributed chapters to several books on mourning, on trauma, on evil, on ghosts in the consulting room, on the role and training of physicians, on refugees and on autism.