Maria Papadima photo

Maria Papadima

PhD, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, SAFE clinic (Enfield CAMHS), Editor of the Journal of Child Psychotherapy


In this paper, the author explores the notion of pretend play and considers whether and in what forms it occurs during adolescence. Through three clinical examples of work with adolescents, she discusses some potential misunderstandings and confusions that can occur when interacting with adolescents in therapy - and within their wider network. The Winnicottian notions of illusion and disillusion are used as central to understand how the process of adolescence and the move towards adulthood plays out. The therapist's reactions, both in the context of her countertransference and also in her role responsiveness (Sandler) and actions, is examined, taking into account the contemporary dangerous and complex formats the adolescents' 'playing' can entail.

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Maria Papadima trained as a child and adolescent psychotherapist at the British Psychotherapy Foundation (IPCAPA), after completing her psychology studies in Thessaloniki, and then further postgraduate studies in psychoanalytic and psychosocial theory. She has been working for a number of years in a NHS (CAMHS) team in North London, specialising in work with adolescents and their families. She has a longstanding interest in therapeutic work with adolescents and their families, building on her earlier experience working at the Brent Centre for Young People, prior to her training. She is interested in the overlap between the psychoanalytic understanding of adolescent difficulties within the cultural and social environment in which they and their families live. At her adolescent clinic, Maria has developed a pilot research project involving brief psychoanalytic psychotherapy aimed at crisis presentations, in collaboration with her team.

In addition to her clinical work, Maria also works privately with adolescents and parents of adolescents. She teaches two courses at the IPCAPA training in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy: one on Freudian theory, and the other on the History of Child Psychotherapy. She is one of the editors at the Journal of Child Psychotherapy for a number of years and has published in her field on the topics of trauma, self harm, adolescent identity development and Winnicottian theory.