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W.R. Bion as Clinician: Steering Between Concept and Practice
Robert D. Hinshelwood
Routledge / Softcover / Jan 2023
9781032351513 (ISBN-10: 1032351519)
New Library of Psychoanalysis / Forthcoming
price: $56.50 (may be subject to change)
216 pages
Not Yet Published

Underpinned by rigorous close readings of his oeuvre, this book provides a comprehensive guide to the development, practice and evolution of Wilfred Bion’s clinical psychoanalytic work.

Starting with the significance of Kant during Bion’s years as a student, the author traces the key influences on Bion in his psychoanalytic and personal development, progressing through Bion’s particularly productive pre-psychoanalytic work based on social field theory, his well-known elaboration of Klein’s schizoid mechanisms known as the theory of containment, and all the while with his deeply thoughtful clinical approach inspired latterly by an understanding of literary creativity. Extending this unique emphasis on Bion’s clinical work, rather than his theory, Hinshelwood also explores how Bion’s early traumatic experiences helped shape his attitudes and approach to effective clinical work.

With comprehensive coverage of the key tenets of Bion’s work, this should be essential reading for psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in practice and in training who seek a clear guide to the practical applications of his theory.


'Hinshelwood, after decades of lecturing and writing about Kleinian psychoanalysis, gives a crystal clear and vivid discussion of the evolution of Bion's work. The relentless dynamics between a conceptual approach and clinical intuition that mark Bion's work runs as a thread through the book. The book thereby offers a scholarly study of Bion's concepts and a unique presentation of detailed clinical examples, sprinkled with biographical anecdoes. A fresh, highly original and very readable masterpiece.'

Rudi Vermote, training analyst, Belgian Psychoanalytical Society; author, Reading Bion (2018)

'Robert Hinshelwood's new book, W.R. Bion as Clinician: Steering Between Concept and Practice, is a tour de force that introduces us to Wilfred Bion the man, the brilliant psychoanalytic theoretician, and innovative clinician. Hinshelwood is an astute guide who offers the reader an in-depth overview of Bion's early childhood years in India, the challenges he confronted as a heroic soldier in World War I, and its impact on his personal and professional life. Hinshelwood's writing is exceptionally clear and the book reads like a good novel.'

Lawrence J. Brown, faculty and supervising child analyst, Boston Psychoanalytic Institute; private practice, Brookline, Massachusetts; author of Transformational Processes in Clinicial Psychoanalysis (2019)

'Picking up where he left off in Bion's Sources (2013, with Nino Torres), Hinshelwood has continued an engaging enquiry into what Bion read and, more importantly, how he made analytic use of works in philosophy, literature and the physical sciences. A deeply personal yet wide-ranging work of intellectual and experiential genealogy, one that will repay the returning reader with its illuminating insights. The author has also done an admirable job of integrating Bion's work with those of his analytic conferences at the British Psychoanalytical Society.'

Joseph Aguayo, training analyst of the Psychoanalytic Center of California; co-author of Wilfred Bion Los Angeles Senimars and Supervisions, and of Bion in Buenos Aires

'This is a brilliant book in which the author weaves together the development of Bion's ideas with his biography. Hinshelwood explains complicated concepts with great clarity, facilitating the understanding of Bion's theory by creating a distinct order in his ideas. The book reveals the foundations found in Klein and in Kant, and describes how Bion built his original theory upon these foundations, combining psychoanalysis with philosophy, intuition with knowledge, science and aesthetics. The author reaches a deep insight, namely that psychoanalysis deals with evolution and growth rather than with healing. This book explains admirably well concepts such as container and contained, reverie, links and the theory of transformations. The reader will feel Bion as a person and a theoretician, and will grasp his reach and exceptional contribution to contemporary psychoanalysis.'

Hanni Biran, training psychoanalyst, Tel Aviv Institute for Psychoanalysis; author of The Courage of Simplicity: Essential Ideas in the Work of Bion

Table of Contents

Introduction: Wilfred Bion, Man and Career 1. Training and Orientation 2. Social Fields 3. Personification 4. Attacks on Reality 5. Clinical Enquiry as Epistemology 6. Turmoil and Invariance 7. The Basic Three - Science, Aesthetics and Religion Epilogue: The Clinical Journey

About the Author:

R.D. Hinshelwood is professor emeritus at the University of Essex, UK; previously director of the Cassel Hospital, London. He is a fellow of the British Psychoanalytic Society, and a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He has written widely on psychoanalysis including The Dictionary of Kleinian Thought (1989), and Research on the Couch (2013), as well as editing with Nuno Torres Bion’s Sources (2013).

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