The Empty Fortress: Infantile Autism and the Birth of the Self

Stella Chess, MD
JAMA. 1967;199(12):949. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120120137043.
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Dr. Bettelheim is a well-known exponent of the thesis that the Severe mental illness of unknown etiology in children, commonly known as autism, is the result of pathological influences of the parents on the child's early development. He is an advocate of long-term residential treatment of such children by psychotherapy and other psychological means, as practiced under his direction in The Chicago Orthogenic School. In the present volume the reader will find a clear and detailed presentation of the author's point of view and of his therapeutic approach. Three case histories are here presented in great detail, and three others more briefly, to illustrate Bettelheim's conception that the autistic symptoms represent the child's response to the parent's desire that he not exist. The goal of treatment, therefore, is expressed in the subtitle of the book, "the Birth of the Self." The therapeutic techniques used by the author to achieve this


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