Palo Alto Center for Developmental Studies


The Palo Alto Center for Developmental Studies offers training in the following areas:

infant observation groups (Esther Bick method)

Group and individual training in infant/parent, child, adolescent and adult psychotherapy and assessment

Group and individual training in organizational, group and leadership consultation

The Palo Alto Center for Developmental Studies sponors research in the following areas:

infant observation and attachment theory

autistic spectrum disorders


the psychological impact of reproductive technologies

post-traumatic stress disorders

identity and gender issues

creativity and the development of an aesthetic and spiritual attitude






In recent decades we recognize more and more that the baby is a relational being with cognitive skills and subjective characteristics.  The observation of the baby and research that have developed in this area have contributed greatly to the understanding of primitive mental functioning in infants and young children, also paving the way for the prevention of early developmental disorders.

From the observation of the baby we can have a first look at how emotional and mental life are organized. We can also see the importance of early object relations, mainly with both parents and the family environment, which will be for him the first "world" around which he will organize social and emotional life.

By observing a baby we can discover the richness of his emotional and mental life, his capacity to respond to the presence of a human partner and his sensitivity to painful situations in the body, psyche and mind.






The observation of the baby in the family according to the Esther Bick method


The method of observation of the baby that we utilize was introduced by the Polish psychoanalyst Esther Bick in Great Britain in 1948 as a method of training for psychotherapists and psychoanalysts. Very quickly this training was expanded to other professionals and currently represents a basic training for all professionals in Children’s Mental Health.  The observation of the baby in his family (Infant Observation) has been useful for studying the primitive communication of the baby and helps the observer to develop his intuitive ability to understand the non- verbal and emotional communication in clinical work with any patient. What characterizes and differentiates this method of observation compared to other methods is the place accorded to the emotions of the observer, as a privileged instrument in understanding of the psychic world of the baby.

Training in the observation of the baby utilizes the observer and the working group to develop a state of receptivity towards all forms of communication from the baby.  This communication can be expressed through body movements, sounds, and emotional atmospheres that the observer is sensitive to during the observation .

The observer utilizes no particular "instruments" (as, for example, the camera or an observation grid) and does not take notes during the observation itself.  After the observation he writes and transcribes his observations in as much detail as possible all that he observes outside of himself, but also his own experience at the observation well . When the observer writes his observation, he learns to develop a capacity for attention and memory, while leaving space to be “surprised " by his associations that allow him to come closer to the meaning of the emotional communication of the baby.

The observations will be presented in the seminar discussion group, in which every moment of the observation will be analyzed by the trainer and the group to detect new aspects of the development of the baby along with the reflections and associations of participants. Indeed, the whole group participates in the observation and in the process of elaboration, allowing for a deepening of the "first level" of the observation and achieving a deeper understanding of the psychic world of the baby and his first relationships within his family. Through this experience, the observer and the group will not only see up close and participate in what happens during the development of a baby, but will also face the intensity of this emotional experience that arouses in him an understanding of the baby’s psychic life.  Group work allows the observer, with the instructor and other participants, to speculate on the psycho- physical and relational development of the baby from the elements that have been observed internally and externally.

Many mental health professionals can benefit from this training that is the essential base for professionals who are faced with the problem of early childhood, and for all those who wish to strengthen their attentional skills and understanding of the most archaic levels of functioning of their patients (children or adults).






Under this framework of training, Cheick Anta Diop University has created a University Diploma in OBSERVATION OF BABY IN HIS FAMILY AND ITS CULTURAL CONTEXT that the University and its Faculty of Medicine set up under the project described below.

The Training will offer the following features:

• The face to face seminars during which each participant will be required to work on observations of babies in their family, in the Senegalese cultural context, with the supervision of Senegalese and international trainers

• 20 half-days of work online / year (chat by Skype) with international trainers

-Active exchanges with foreign universities that will consist of: student placements in facilities abroad or internships of foreign students in Senegal, conferences and participation in international academic conferences between Senegal and foreign universities that support and participate in the project

• When necessary, an adaptation of courses to the local context through the intervention of local and international specialists will occur.

Accordingly, the general rules of admission to the program, supervision and procedures of the evaluation of knowledge and the conditions of issuance of the Diploma courses are considered below.



Article 1 shall be established at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of the University of Dakar a University Diploma entitled (DU): OBSERVATION OF BABY IN HIS FAMILY AND ITS CULTURAL CONTEXT (hereinafter the "diploma course "). The coordinator is a teacher of teaching rank competent in Medical Psychiatry appointed by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine after consultation with the Faculty.

Article 2 the diploma course is a specific additional training by the University and under its responsibility. It does not entitle the holder thereof, ordinal qualification, except specific recognition by the latter.

PART II: THE ADMISSION Article 3 Subject to specific provisions in the Faculty of Medicine, candidates are allowed to enroll for the degree program:

• Candidates with a Doctorate in Medicine issued by the University

• medical interns who have completed their last year of medical school,

• holders of an equivalent diploma or waiver by Rector's order and after consulting the coordinator of the diploma course in the Faculty of Medicine candidates will be considered

Psychologists, social workers, educators • Nurses and midwives after validation of a test.

Article 4 Registration for the diploma course is determined by the examination of the application and after consultation with the Teaching Committee. The number of seats to be filled for each training cycle is determined by the Dean of Medicine after the proposal of the Faculty that is responsible for teaching and after consulting the Teaching Committee. Inscription in the diploma course is not final until payment of the registration fee that shall be set annually by the Board of the University.





Article 5          The studies for the diploma course lasts four semesters (two academic years). They include a theoretical and practical observational training. The curriculum is laid down in Annex 1 attached hereto.

Article 6 shall be established through a proposal by the Coordinator of the diploma course consisting of the Teachers Training Committee of the Faculty of Medicine and professionals whose competence is recognized by the University. Foreign teachers can be part of the committee. The Teaching Committee determines the orientation, the elements of the teachings and methods of evaluation.

Article 7 the training is provided by teachers and researchers from national institutions and senior trainers from Senegal or from foreign countries.  Training may also be provided by professionals from public and private sectors chosen for their skills.



TITLE IV. The assessment

Article 8 - the knowledge base of the degree training includes continuous monitoring tests and / or final examinations. It can be organized in the framework of educational units (EU). The Annex 2 attached to this Order establishes procedures for the dissemination of a knowledge base (theoretical and clinical). Continuous monitoring can include all forms of teaching.  For the final exam students should have met the requirements of regularly participating in the training sessions, participating in the practical work of observation and internships.

Article 9 - to validate the studies the student must have a rating at least equal to or greater than ten (10) to twenty (20) for each unit.  The assessment of the educational credits (units) the EU are vested and therefore capitalized by the student according to their currently obtained average.  Training for units that are not validated – the student retains for the second session of terminal exam, earning a score equal to or greater ALA average obtained in their components, unless written waiver is made before the start of the second session with the office of the manager of the diploma course at the University of Dakar – (University Diploma-DU).

Article 10 the jury of examiners for the examinations is appointed by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

Article 11 The degree of the University THE OBSERVATION OF BABY IN HIS FAMILY AND ITS CULTURAL CONTEXT can be obtained after validation of all units of training and of through examination of the student’s work and theoretical knowledge and the submission of a final paper.

Article 12 the degree of the University- THE OBSERVATION OF BABY IN HIS FAMILY AND ITS CULTURAL CONTEXT is issued under the seal of the University.



Graduation University Diploma (DU). Objectives, program and

Educational objectives

• The training will be organized on the basis of the written observations of the baby in his family and observation in professional contexts, made by the trainees. Trainees will also be taught academic courses that will deepen their reflective capacity and expand their working knowledge of infant observation.

Educational coordinators will validate the program.

• 20 half-days of work online / year (chat by Skype)

• This educational program will take place over two academic years.

Background and Rationale

The observation of the baby opens the door to new scientific contributions that help us in understanding the psychological development of the infant and young child. With this academic training, participants can also gradually develop the ability of observation in complex clinical situations. The course also provides an essential contribution to the prevention of early developmental disorders, and it opens the way to new forms of psychotherapy, such as parent-infant psychotherapy.

Training in the observation of the baby in Senegal is also of great scientific interest.  This will be one of the first uses of this method in the African continent. This can help early childhood professionals to better understand the care of young children in the Senegalese cultural context where much attention is given to carrying the baby, being attuned to his emotional experiences and the contributions of the extended family. This may also be a basis for better contact and better communication with different cultural groups in our societies.


We have seen, in experiments utilizing infant observation in Senegal that the promotion of this method can actively help in the development of public health; provide a greater appreciation of early childhood for professionals and more rights and understanding of children in different cultural contexts.

General objectives

• Develop clinical participant observation skills;

• Strengthen the students attention and knowledge of primitive levels of psychic development of the baby

• Strengthen capacities for the observation and understanding of the body and sign language of the baby

. Provide knowledge of the main theories of psychological development of the infant and young child

. Develop understanding of the underlying dynamics of the relationship between parents and the baby - siblings, and the extended family

. Gain an understanding of childhood psychopathology



Target training groups

• Pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, educators, childcare workers

• CES Pediatrics (2nd year) • Interns (after 4 semesters) • Midwives (after evaluation of level of training) • General Practitioners



Organization of training


THEORETICAL ASPECT: The observation of the baby since Freud:

- The first psychoanalytic observation of a young child (the game of fort-da) –

- Melanie Klein and the emotional lives of babies and infants

-      Winnicott and the parent/infant relationship


The training method for observation of the baby in his family by Esther Bick:

Ethical Principles - observation of the baby -The impact of observation on the observer - The function of the working group and the elaboration of the seminar work group

- Experimental - Ethological - Psychotherapeutic: Different methods of observation

The observation of the baby by Emmy Pikler:

- The observation anchor for the training of health professionals involves reading and discussion of papers on infant observation of the baby in the African cultural context

- –The Observer in Senegalese culture: the meaning and impact of the gaze in Senegal

- The African baby at different times of its development - care practices, rituals, beliefs around the baby and his family - rituals around birth - The importance of the carrying in African culture

- The African family yesterday and today: the impact on child development

- The meaning of the practice of " fostering " a baby and child in Senegal

- The contribution of infant observation to understanding child development and child psychopathology

-Adolescence and the adult African environment

The encounter with the observation of the baby in different cultural contexts: an integration of the work of Esther Bick and Mary Ainsworth - The observations of Mary Ainsworth in Uganda

- The theory of attachment developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth

The contribution of infant observation to psychoanalysis :

- The skin as the first containing Self - concept of psychic skin (E. Bick) and skin-ego (Anzieu) - Anxieties - The primitive notions of containment (Bion) - primitive forms of identification: adhesive identification and projective identification (E. Bick, Donald Meltzer) - the birth of language in the baby - and clinical applications: - the contribution of infant observation to the understanding and psychotherapy of autism

- Observation of the baby and parent- infant psychotherapy -infant observation in different institutional contexts. Maternity/obstetrics departments, neonatology services, crèches, nurseries, kindergartens

• PRACTICAL COMPONENT: • The observations of a baby in the family performed by the participants:

Contacts with intermediaries • Contact with families while observing the baby • the prenatal visit and meeting with both parents • the first observation of the baby in the maternity department or home• the establishment of regular observation sessions with the baby in his family • the seminar as a containing shadowing experience. The importance of the synthesis of work group discussions • the development and understanding of the end of the observation

. Learning from the experience of observation:

Comments made by participants in various professional contexts: Discussion of observations made in the professional context of each participant, with input by the focus group

• Writing of an original article on an aspect of training or dissertation writing


VI. Organization of training

• Course duration: 2 academic years; • Oversight of Diploma Program:

• Coordination: Chief of Psychiatry; • Teaching staff: psychiatrists, psychologists • Number of participants: 20. • Rating: • Written and • participation in seminar discussions; • Interview with the educational committee.

VII. Content DU (4 EU) [total hours = 600 hours / year Tot: 1200/for two years]

VIII. Educational support

Coordinator : Professor Habib Thai, Dr. Idrissa Ba and Madame Rosella Sandri


• Madame Rosella Sandri (coordinator with Professor Habib Thiam and Dr. Idrissa Ba of the Educational Project )


Dr. Idrissa Ba (University of Dakar)

Dr. Momar Camara (University of Dakar)

Ms. Oumou Ly Cane (University of Dakar)

Professor Didier Houzel (University of Caen)

Professor Bernard Golse (University Paris 5)

Monsieur Pascal Corde (University of Amiens )

Professor Denis Mellier (University of Besançon)

Professor Sesto Passone (University of Louvain La Neuve )

Professor Brian Feldman (Universities of Moscow and Macau)

Professor Marco Francesconi (University of Pavia)

Madame Anna Tabanelli (University of Pavia)

Madame Régine Prat (Paris Psychoanalytic Society )

IX . Terms of enrollment

• A selection will be made by the local education committee and will require the presentation of an application containing the resume and a photocopy of the highest degree.


• Final inscription will be at the Faculty of Medicine University of Dakar