Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Imaginary companions, Attachment disorder in adolescence-Etiology, Attachment disorder in adolescence-Diagnosis, Attachment disorder in adolescence-Treatment, Narrative therapy, Winnicott, D.W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971, Attachment, Trauma, Theoretical


This theoretical study explored the phenomenon of imaginary companions as they present within the lives of adolescents with histories of attachment trauma. The phenomenon and is origins were explored through a review of developmental, psychoanalytic and trauma research. Theoretical perspectives of narrative therapy and Winnicottian object relations were then introduced as lenses through which to conceptualize assessment and formulation of the phenomenon, with careful consideration paid to the social context within which the phenomenon emerges. These theoretical perspectives were then applied to a discussion of assessment, formulation and treatment within a specific case example, written by Proskauer, Barsh and Johnson (1980), about an Navajo adolescent male who presented for treatment with imaginary companions and a complex history of trauma. The study findings indicated that imaginary companions can be viewed as a resilient adaptive response to attachment trauma and that therapy can assist adolescents in finding a place of holding through which to address unmet developmental needs as well as to create multiple storied identities. Both theoretical approaches focused treatment on the development of the adolescent's whole and true self. Areas of further research and the relevance of this study to the field of social work were both explored throughout the body of the study.




iii, 113 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 103-113)