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Section V: The Section for Applied Clinical Psychoanalysis
of the American Psychological Association's Division 39,
The Division of Psychoanalysis
The purpose of the Section for Applied Clinical Psychoanalysis is to promote the belief that the ethical spirit of clinical psychoanalysis can be expressed in and extended to a wide variety of applied settings. Thus, this Section seeks to represent not only those psychologist psychoanalysts who work in a traditional two person clinical practice, no matter what theoretical orientation underlies that practice, but also those who work in settings beyond the consulting room, including but not limited to: schools, hospitals, courtrooms, and community meetings of various kinds. In supporting the application of psychoanalytic principles to applied settings, the Section is open to the reciprocal process whereby work in these wider settings may provide new and important insights into our basic understanding of psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice.
We think that being a psychoanalyst is a matter less of curriculum vitae than of worldview. It is our mission both to defend and extend this worldview.
Through our listserv, website, invited panels, and biennial essay competitions, the Section for Applied Clinical Psychoanalysis fosters the exchange of ideas that explore the wider application of psychoanalytic thinking and practice.
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Dr. Billie Pivnick's acceptance speech on receiving the 2015 Schillinger Award for the best essay on the topic:
Holding a psychoanalytic identity while navigating non-psychoanalytic communities.
Dr. Boulanger; Section Five Board Members; Schillinger Awards Committee Members:
I could just say how grateful I am for your recognition of my writing. Or for your acknowledgment of the impact of my work with the designers of the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Both of these acts are incredibly meaningful to me. This feels as much like a lifetime achievement award to me as it does an essay prize. But I also wish to thank you for your work in advancing the legitimacy of applying clinical psychoanalysis in settings outside of the consulting room. This is an idea whose time has come.
A few months ago I presented my museum-design consultation work in somewhat different form – as a slide show – to a group of analysts at the American Psychoanalytic Association. When asked about my background and training, I found myself saying that I had done psychoanalytic psychotherapy training as part of a postdoctoral fellowship, but refused to do institute training because I didn’t want to see patients on the couch. As a dance therapist as well as a psychologist, I felt my skills at observing, mirroring, moving, and trying to understand implicit phenomena in both speech and action would be rendered moot if my patients were prone. Additionally, having found my own path out of childhood medical trauma through movement, art, and music, I was not ready to surrender my vitality to the rigors of institute-sanctioned submission to what I then viewed as an overly narrow definition of psychoanalysis.
But this was not just a personal quirk: I had by then devised treatments for chronic pain and psychosomatic disorders that incorporated movement as part of a team approach to medical treatment and had seen its benefits. I had witnessed empirically the dance through time of mother-infant dyads while I coded a multitude of videotaped developmental assessments. I had also found measures of therapeutic discourse that had an embodied structure and were quite predictive of separation reactions and symptoms during the termination phase of therapy. I had come to believe deeply in the significance of movement to psychic life.
So, I stubbornly held out hope for someone in the field to come along and validate my then more than slightly oppositional perspective. I resigned myself to a life on the academic margins of the psychoanalytic field, teaching and writing about developmental psychopathology, symbolic processes, and child psychotherapy, albeit in a clinical psychology doctoral program at Columbia University Teachers College and in various analytic institutes.
As luck would have it, a former supervisor, Dr. James Stoeri, gave my name to Tom Hennes, a museum exhibition designer who needed a university-based expert on development for a children’s museum that his firm, Thinc Design, was creating at the time. We worked well together on that project for over a year, and then collaborated on several others, including a mind-body exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which won a prestigious award. So it was natural that he would turn to me for help designing the 9/11 Museum. That consultation is what I described in my essay.
The analysts who attended my presentation at the APsaA commented that psychoanalysis had finally grown into my vision. A flattering idea. But inherent in my vision, if there was such a thing, was the idea articulated by Davoine and Gaudilliere in their book, History Beyond Trauma, that the social links are what gets attacked in mass trauma and therefore it is through restoring the social links that mass trauma is healed. With their patients suffering from war trauma they found the metaphoric traumatic place – often representing a physical place, the place of a particular battle, for instance - in their own experiences that overlapped with their patients’ historical experiences. I believe we must do this in memorializing mass trauma, as well.
In the case of memorializing the experience of 9/11, the intersection between my world and that of the survivors of the attacks was that we all had to “manage collapse.” On 9/11 the twin towers fell; in my teen years, two towering family members of mine fell – one, a near casualty in an auto accident, one, a media casualty after taking a controversial public intellectual stance. Both later rose again in ways I witnessed with great admiration.
We already understand the parallels between our own losses and those of our patients. But there are equally important parallels between therapeutic transformation and its social translation. There is much left unsaid and undiscovered about applying clinical psychoanalysis to social issues, but I am happy to contribute to its emergence as a way of asserting the legitimacy of psychoanalytic thinking. If my family members’ falls – and those of my own – have taught me anything, it’s the importance of getting back up and standing up for oneself. It was this awareness I brought to the 9/11 work I did, and it is this vision I hope to bring to the field for the next two decades.
I would like to thank Tom Hennes, with whom I collaborated so closely for seven years, and with whom I wrote an earlier paper that explored other aspects of this design project. Entitled “Managing Collapse: Commemorating September 11 through the Relational Design of a Memorial Museum,” it became a chapter in a (2014) book edited by Michael O’Loughlin called The Ethics of Remembering and the Consequences of Forgetting: Essays on Trauma, History, and Memory. Without his commitment to an intersubjective approach to museum work, I would never have been permitted such creative freedom. I would also like to thank Dr. Zahava Doering, editor of Curator: The Museum Journal, for her contributions to my understanding of museums and for her advocacy of psychoanalysis as a useful tool for museum designers and curators.
You can read Dr. Pivnick's essay Spaces to Stand In: Applying Clinical Psychoanalysis to the Relational Design of the National September 11 Memorial Museum HERE
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