In this article I want to describe the importance of the father in the psychic development of children, and his role of thirdness capable of progressively opening up the symbiotic mother-child bonds towards alterity. It is because of the presence of a third person in the relationship that children can start developing their thinking abilities, and particularly their symbolic world. In the second part of the article I will highlight how a therapist working with severely damaged patients and their families often needs to cover a paternal function, or thirdness; a function that often lacks inside “psychotic” families. Finally, a short example will be made, substantiating the article contents with clinical material from a multiple family therapeutic group directed by me and Doctor Comelli.
The paternal function in psychoanalysis: the therapist’s role inside a multiple family therapy setting