Michael Trout on Mindsight and Everyday Practice with Children and Adults

 Free Lecture February 25, 2020 at 7:30 pm Eastern time. Register Here. 

Registration URL: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/uZ0pf-urqDgun6Qhu8WmCYG4FEhW7kzPFw 

Mindsight: “…the ability to perceive the mental state of another (Siegel, 1999, p. 140).

A baby shrieks for the first seven months of his life. No one is getting any sleep in his house. The parents are utterly depleted. No grownup one has “lost it” yet, but in these situations the possibility of abuse lurks not far around the next bend. The baby is examined over and over. Countless trials of medications, and countless medical and nursing guesses about what in the world is the matter with this screaming infant produce no results.

 The beleaguered parents drag themselves to a specialist whose contribution was plain. He simply followed their words, and asked them to follow their baby’s cries. As the four collaborators sat together on the floor, wondering, the parents happened to mention the child’s birth. He had been past dates. Mom had finally gone into labor, but things were not progressing–she was stopped dead at 4cm—and her beloved birth plan no longer seemed the least bit important to her. Everything hurt. She wanted this kid out. One epidural—then two, then three—did little except immobilize the lower half of her body (and, perhaps, much of the baby’s body). Eventually there was enough of a crown to use the vacuum extractor. When that was insufficient to get the child out, a nurse was called over to apply forceps. The physician—one foot up on the table, now—pulled on the vacuum extractor while twisting and turning the baby’s head. Out he came, screaming. He didn’t stop for seven months.

 It occurred to no one that this baby could still hurt from the chiropractic nightmare that accompanied his emergence into the outside world. No one could imagine that he “remembered” the struggle of birth. Not once did anyone—including the horde of clinicians to whom these parents had taken their screaming infant—consider that any of these birth circumstances had anything to do the awwful shriek that had never stopped.

 Mindsight is rarely perfect, so reflection may well not produce perfect answers. All we may get out of it is a novel perspective, an alternative idea, a way to approach a situation in which nothing else has been working. On this day, on this floor, we didn’t have to know, for certain—the parents and this baby and I— to simply reflect, and then to try something novel.

 And so these desperate parents lay their baby on the floor of my office, hovered over him, and began to tell him how sorry they were. He stopped momentarily, and made direct eye contact with mom. Mom was startled by this response, and just kept talking to him, with mindsight, fueled by following, which was quickly turning into the precious act of holding. He must have hurt so much, she said. He must have wondered why people were doing those things to him. He must have wondered where his mommy was, or why his daddy didn’t make them stop. Did he know that he was safe, now? Did he know that no one was going to have to do any of that stuff again? Did he know how sorry they were that the beginning of his life “out here” was so painful?

 They went on this way for nearly an hour, all the while transfixed by his eye contact, and astonished at the sudden quiet. 

 He never screamed again, after that night.

 Tonight we will study together the core components of a clinical practice—applicable, it turns out, to babies, children and grownups—based on mindsight: the power of attunement, the absolute necessity of presence, and the practical, quiet-but-active roles of wondering, following and holding. We will consider together the barriers we have experienced to these mindsight-based ways of being in our practices, how scared we get that we’re not doing enough, all the while managing our own caregiving narratives and the pressures we feel from our colleagues and supervisors and managed care systems to diagnose and to fix. 

 If you have wondered if you are enough, if you have been pondering what it would be like 

to return to the principles that once seemed important to you but which got lost somewhere 

along the way, then this hour may be for you.     


Cozolino, L. (2002). The neuroscience of psychotherapy: Building and rebuilding the human brain.  New York: W.W. Norton. 

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Coming to our senses: healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. New York: Hyperion Press.

Kleinman, A. (1988).  The illness narratives: Suffering, healing and the human condition. New York: Basic Books.

Koloroutis, M. and Trout, M. (2012).  See me as a person: Creating therapeutic relationships with patients and their families. Minneapolis: Creative Health Care Management.

Schore, J. and Schore, A. (2008). Modern attachment theory: The central role of affect regulation in development and treatment. Clinical Social Work Journal, 36: 9-20.

Siegel, D. (1999). The developing mind: Toward a neurobiology of interpersonal experience. New York: The Guilford Press.

Siegel, D. (2007). The mindful brain. New York: W.W. Norton.

Smalley, S. and Winston, D. (2010). Fully present: The science, art and practice of mindfulness. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press.

About Michael Trout:


Michael Trout graduated from Alma College (B.A., cum laude, honors in Philosophy) and Central Michigan University (M.A., Psychology), and did his specialized training in infant psychiatry at the Child Development Project, University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry, under Prof. Selma Fraiberg.

In the mental health field since 1968 and in private practice since 1979, Mr. Trout has, since 1986 directed The Infant-Parent Institute, which engaged in research, clinical practice and clinical training related to problems of attachment.

He was the founding president of both the Michigan and the International Associations for Infant Mental Health; was on the charter Editorial Board of the Infant Mental Health Journal; served as regional vice-president for the United States for the World Association for Infant Mental Health; and served on the board of directors (and as editor of the newsletter) for APPPAH — the Association for Pre- & Perinatal Psychology and Health. In 1984 he won the Selma Fraiberg Award for “ . . . significant contributions to the needs of infants and their families.”

In 2010, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, for his decades of work with foster and adopted children and their families, at the ATTACh conference in San Francisco.

In addition to publishing a number of book chapters and journal articles, Mr. Trout has produced 16 clinical training videos that are used by universities and clinics around the world, including the six-hour video training series, The Awakening and Growth of the Human: Studies in Infant Mental Health. He has also written and produced five videos focusing on the unique perspective of babies on divorce, adoption, loss, domestic violence and parental incarceration.

He is the co-author (with foster/adoptive mother Lori Thomas) of The Jonathon Letters; the author of Baby Verses: The Narrative Poetry of Infants and Toddlers; the producer of two meditation CD's, including See Me As a Person: Meditations for Sustaining Relationship-Based Care, and The Hope-Filled Parent: Meditations for Parents of Children Who Have Been Harmed; and co-author (with Mary Koloroutis) of the 2012 textbook for healthcare providers, See Me As a Person.  His final book, This Hallowed Ground: Four Decades in Infant Mental Health was released in 2019 in audiobook format, and donated to the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health. It is available through the Association at www.miaimh.org.  

For 46 years--41 of them in the infant mental health specialty--the most important part of Mr. Trout’s work was in the hours he spent with individuals and families. He retired from clinical practice on May 30, 2014, allowing him to turn more of his attention to teaching, writing, and looking into what happened to some of the babies and families he served, many years ago.

The private phone number at Michael's office is 217-377-4060. His email address is [email protected]. The address of Michael's office is 2808 East Concord Road, Urbana, IL 61802. You are welcome to contact him at [email protected].

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