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Donald Meltzer





'Donald Meltzer was one of the few genuinely original minds within the psychoanalytic community His approach inspires trainees, while his theoretical insights continue to enrich the most experienced practitioners.'
Christopher Mackenna
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Donald Meltzer photo
Donald Meltzer with a step-grandson in 1978
(photo: Adrian Williams)

'I discovered that I was a good reader of dreams, which are marvellous and mysterious, and alert you to the fact that the human mind is something about which we know nothing.'
Donald Meltzer
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Donald Meltzer was born in New York and studied medicine at Yale. After practising as a psychiatrist specialising in children and families, he moved to England in 1953 to have analysis with Melanie Klein. For many years he was a training analyst with the British Society, though he later left the Society owing to disagreements about methods of teaching and of selecting candidates. He worked with both adults and children, and was innovative in the treatment of autistic children. He worked closely with Esther Bick (click here), beginning with teaching child psychiatry at the Tavistock Clinic, and started a Kleinian study group with her after Mrs Klein's death. Clinical work and supervision were his passion, and he regarded clinical practice as always being more advanced than psychoanalytic theory. He was also however an original theoretician; for concepts which are distinctively Meltzerian click here. For the genesis of the 'aesthetic conflict' click here. His books The Kleinian Development (1978), based on lectures given to Tavistock students, and Studies in Extended Metapsychology (1986) pioneered the understanding of the theoretical context and clinical relevance of the work of Wilfred Bion. Like Roger Money-Kyrle, whom he admired and whose papers he edited, he saw the historical development of psychoanalysis as a logical progression, from Freud's neurophysiological model of the mind, through Klein's theological model, to the aesthetic model adumbrated by Bion which confirmed psychoanalysis as an art-science. He worked with Adrian Stokes the Kleinian art critic (click here), and later his stepdaughter Meg Harris Williams, artist and literary critic, on the development of this aesthetic model (click here). Meltzer's seven books have been translated into many languages and have become widely influential in teaching psychoanalysis in different countries.

With Martha Harris, after the death of her husband Roland, he founded the Roland Harris Educational Trust (Clunie Press) for the advancement of the understanding of child psychology. They practised in London and Oxford and taught clinical seminars and supervisions regularly, in England and abroad, resulting in the establishment of atelier-style training and discussion groups in many countries, such as those in the Links below. For the history of the French GERPEN, click here.

Meltzer was from childhood a passionate horseman, beginning at age seven with riding lessons in Central Park. He kept and bred horses, aided by his daughter-in-law, at the family's farm at Brill near Oxford. He also enjoyed the physical labour of planting and tending his vegetable garden and fruit trees at Mersea.

To read an Introduction to Meltzer's writing and thinking, click here. An introductory selection from his writings may be found in A Meltzer Reader (click here). For An Introduction to Donald Meltzer by Silvia Cassese click here. Books that discuss Meltzer's contribution to aesthetics are Psychoanalytic Aesthetics by Nicky Glover (click here) and Psychoanalysis and Art by Sandra Gosso (click here). To read The genesis of the aesthetic conflict by Meg Harris Williams click here.

To read Yankee story, his father's account of their family's emigration from Lithuania to the US, click here. For an obituary by Irene Freeden click here. To read James Gammill's personal recollections of training in the British Institute contemporaneously with Meltzer, click here. For some family recollections click here.

In addition to his own publications, the Psychoanalytic Group of Barcelona have recorded some of his later supervisory work in Psychoanalytic Work with Children and Adults (click here), and Supervisions with Donald Meltzer (click here). To read an interview On supervision by Robert and Mirta Oelsner, click here. Transcripts recording some of the seminars conducted together with Martha Harris are published in Adolescence (click here) and in The Story of Infant Development (click here). For an interview of Meltzer in Sao Paulo in 1996, click here. To hear Meltzer speaking about the aesthetic conflict in Lisbon, click here .



1992 The Claustrum: an Investigation of Claustrophobic Phenomena

1988 The Apprehension of Beauty: the role of aesthetic conflict in development, art and violence
with Meg Harris Williams

1986 Studies in Extended Metapsychology: clinical applications of Bion’s ideas

1983 Dream Life: A Re-examination of the Psychoanalytical Theory and Technique.

1978 The Kleinian Development: Book I (Freud), Book II (Klein), Book III (Bion). Single-volume edition, 1978

1976 A Psychoanalytic Model of the Child-in-the-Family-in-the-Community with Martha Harris. In French, Spanish and Italian; first published in English in Sincerity: Collected Papers, ed. A. Hahn, 1994. New expanded edition: The Educational Role of the Family: a Psychoanalytical Model, ed. M. H. Williams, 2013, click here.

1975 Explorations in Autism: a psychoanalytic study

1973 Sexual States of Mind

1967 The Psychoanalytical Process 

(Editor, with E. O'Shaughnessy) Collected Papers of Roger Money-Kyrle 1978.



For some late talks and papers click here



2005 The evolution of object relations British Journal of Psychotherapy, 14 (1): 60-66.

2004 The relationship of psychoanalysis to similar sciences and areas Revista de Psicanalise da SPPA, 11 (3): 437-48.

2002 The role of projective identification in the formation of weltanschauung (talk), published in Lectures on Psychotherapy and Spirituality ed. N. Field et al. (2005), 131-36.

2002 Good luck (talk), published in Supervisions with Donald Meltzer, ed. R. Castella, C. Tabbia and L. Farre (2003), 315-24.

2000 Symbol and allegory (talk), first published in A Meltzer Reader, ed. M. H. Williams (2010), 125-30.

2000 A review of my writings in Exploring the Work of Donald Meltzer, ed. M. Cohen and A. Hahn, 1-11.

1997 Nuove considerazioni sul concetto di conflitto estetico in Paesaggi della menti: una psicoanalisi per l’estetica ed. S. Gosso.

1997 Reply to Dr Apprey’s paper ('When disciplined description precedes interpretation: slowing down Meltzer’s account of sincerity to reinsert description in post-Kleinian terminology’), with Meg Harris Williams, Journal of Melanie Klein and Object Relations, 15 (1): 131-34.

1996 A personal response to the making of an analyst: Michael Fordham  Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 22 (1): 26-27.

1995 Concerning signs and symbols (written 1995), first published in British Journal of Psychotherapy, 1997, 14 (2): 175-81.

1995 On Bion’s Grid (talk), first published in A Meltzer Reader, ed. M. H. Williams (2010), 113-20.

1995 Thought disorder: a distinct phenomenological category? (written c. 1995), first published in British Journal of Psychotherapy (2005), 21 (3): 417-28.

1994 A system of workshops  Psychanalystes, 48: 99-102.

1993 Creativity and the countertransference (talks from 1992-93 and a note from 2002), first published in English in The Vale of Soulmaking, by M. H. Williams (2005), 175-82.

1991 Beyond conscience: the concept of 'super-ego' and its implications for the psychoanalytic work Analytische Psychologie, 22 (2): 79-99.

1988 Concerning the stupidity of evil, in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 561-63.

1986 Discussion of Esther Bick’s paper 'Further considerations on the function of the skin in early object relations’
British Journal of Psychotherapy, 2 (4): 300-301.

1985 Bion’s A Memoir of the Future with Meg Harris Williams, in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 520-50.

1981 Does Money-Kyrle’s concept of misconception have any unique descriptive power? Scientific Bulletin of the British Psycho-analytical Society 8, reprinted in R. Money-Kyrle, Man's Picture of His World and Three Papers, ed. M. H. Williams, pp. 239-256.

1980 The diameter of the circle in Wilfed Bion’s work Scientific Bulletin of the British Psycho-analytical Society,
reprinted in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 469-74.

1979 Un approccio psicoanalitico alle psicosi Quaderni di Psicoterapia Infantile 2.

1979 Sul processo introiettivo with Martha Harris, Quaderni di Psicoterapia Infantile 2.

1978 A note on introjective processes Scientific Bulletin of the British Psycho-analytical Society, reprinted in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 458-68.

1976 Discussion at the William Alanson White Institute Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 12 (4): 477-78.

1976 The delusion of clarity of insight International Journal of Psycho-analysis 1976, 57 (1-2): 141-46.

1976 Temperature and distance as technical dimensions of interpretation in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 374-86.

1975 Adhesive Identification Contemporary Psychoanalysis, (3): 289-310.

1975 Mutism in infantile autism: a reply to the discussion by Donald Burnham  International Journal of Psycho-analysis 56 (2), 253.

1975 Psicopatologia dell’adolescenza Quaderni di Psicoterapia Infantile 1, published in English in Adolescence, ed. M. H. Williams (2011), 61-74.

1975 Teoria della perversione sessuale; Perversita; Posizione schizo-paranoide e posizione depressiva Three papers in Quaderni di Psicoterapia Infantile 1, published in English in Adolescence, 2011.

1975 The role of narcissistic organization in the communication difficulties of the schizophrenic in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 1994.

1975 Compulsive generosity in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 1994.

1975 A biographical note on Adrian Stokes Contemporary Psychoanalysis 10, p. 74.

1974 The role of pregenital confusions in erotomania Scientific Bulletin of the British Psycho-analytical Society, published in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 1994.

1974 The narcissistic foundation of the erotic transference in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 1994.

1974 Repression, forgetting, and unfaithfulness Scientific Bulletin of the British Psycho-analytical Society, reprinted in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 307-22.

1973 Routine and inspired interpretations Scientific Bulletin of the British Psycho-analytical Society, reprinted in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 290-306.

1971 Towards an atelier system Scientific Bulletin of the British Psycho-analytical Society, reprinted in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 285-9.

1971 Sincerity: a study in the atmosphere of human relations (on Harold Pinter), in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 185-284.

1970 Positive and negative forms in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 177-84.

1968 The relation of aims to methodology in the treatment of children in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 170-76.

1968 A note on analytic receptivity in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 166-9.

1968 An interruption technique for the analytic impasse in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 152-65.

1965 Return to the imperative: an ethical implication of psychoanalytic findings in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 142-51.

1965 The dual unconscious basis of materialism in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 133-41.

1963 Concerning the social basis of art (dialogue with Adrian Stokes) in Painting and the Inner World; reprinted in The Apprehension of Beauty, 1988, 206-27.

1963 The differentiation of somatic delusions from hypochondria in Sincerity: Collected Papers 122-32.

1963 Evaluation of Melanie Klein’s Narrative of a Child Analysis International Journal of Psycho-analysis, 44 (4): 507-13.

1963 The metapsychology of cyclothymic states in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 90-121.

1955 Towards a structural concept of anxiety in Sincerity: Collected Papers, 3-21. 


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