Reconsidering classic case studies: The "mechanical boy" and the "space child"

Richard A. Epstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Bruno Bettelheim and Rudolph Ekstein are two of the early seminal figures in the field of residential treatment for severely emotionally disturbed children and adolescents. Many of their published works included detailed examinations of clinical case material and discussions that involved explorations of the therapeutic use of meaning and metaphor in the behaviors and communications of psychotic children. The current paper revisits their respective classic case studies, “Joey: A Mechanical Boy�? and “Tommy the Space Child,�? as well as discusses the implications of contemporary relational theory for using the meaning and metaphor of behaviors and communications described in classic case studies and, by extension, to other clinical situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychotherapy in Group Care
Subtitle of host publicationMaking Life Good Enough
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781317787198
ISBN (Print)0789022230, 9780789022233
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • And relational theory
  • Bettelheim
  • Case studies
  • Ekstein
  • Meaning and metaphor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Reconsidering classic case studies: The "mechanical boy" and the "space child"'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this