In this monthly column, the Div. 39 president shares his thoughts with division members.
August was another difficult month in the United States. So many of us were horrified by the events in Charlottesville. Division members, their loved ones and patients have been subjected to hate speech and have become even more fearful about their safety.
It is becoming more difficult for us to comfort ourselves by attributing the hate and prejudice to others. As a nation, we are grappling with the reality that this is us.
As the Division of Psychoanalysis, we must commit ourselves to examining, understanding, and standing against violence, hatred, oppression and victimization by hate groups. It is essential that we engage in respectful dialogue concerning issues of diversity within the division and in our nation. We also must engage in honest inquiry about collective trauma experienced by people living in the U.S.
The events in Charlottesville were horrifying, but they are a symptom of a bigger problem in our culture involving prejudice and hate. "The Anatomy of Prejudices," by my late mentor and friend, Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, continues to be helpful to me in understanding the history that precedes Charlottesville and the seething nationwide hatred of which it is a symptom. Young-Bruehl focuses on how we hate instead of who we hate and has important implications for our clinical work and personal struggles.
Understanding the history that led us to Charlottesville is only one part of understanding who we are as a nation right now. It is also helpful to learn about ourselves through the impressions of those outside the U.S. As you may know, Div. 39 has a number of international members. One of them, Dr. Malin Fors, a recent winner of the division’s Johanna Tabin Book Prize, graciously agreed to share her impressions of the division, APA and our nation after her recent visit to the U.S. to attend the APA Convention. The Convention included an excellent program of Div. 39 sponsored and co-sponsored presentations, thanks to Co-chairs Colin Ennis and Devon King.
I hope that you will consider Malin’s impressions and experience as we try to understand better what is happening to us as a division, as a profession and as a nation.
Dennis M. Debiak, PsyD
You asked me, as an international member of Div. 39 to reflect on the division from the outside. I am not sure you realized how much outside you reached for. I'm not just an international member. I live in the most remote place most people can imagine.
I am an urban Swede who, ten years ago, moved with my wife to live in the most northern town in the world: Hammerfest, Norway. My wife loves the harsh weather, wind and snow, and I love my work here. Hammerfest is a nine-hour drive above the Arctic Circle, far north of Alaska and Siberia. Every day the Hurtigruta ship arrives. In the summertime, impressive tourist ferries come from all over the world. The tourist shops open at 7:00 in the morning to sell souvenirs to Germans wearing thick quilted jackets. We are always surprised by their heavy clothing because we ourselves think we are enjoying summer warmth (44 F or so). One can also easily spot camera-enthusiastic Japanese, as well as Americans who often sport a shade of blue hair not seen in other tourists. The Italians and the Dutch tend to have fewer clothes and non-blue hair, but they like to bicycle around on a line with a guide cycling in the front. They cycle so fast and mercilessly that when I am walking our chihuahua we have to be careful not to be run over.
We are very proud of our tourists. Their arrival means we have some value to the rest of the world. We are also proud of our midnight sun, which lasts for two months each summer, and of all the versions of blue and purple colors one experiences through the dark season, accompanied by the dance of the northern lights. Otherwise, however, we tend to feel quite inferior. I probably don’t need to mention that no important psychology conferences ever reach Hammerfest, and so I have to travel a lot to keep up with the international community. That is why Div. 39 is so important to me: Always welcoming, friendly and inclusive. We live in an era in which one's tribe can be very far away but still important. It is not about distance - it is about passion.
I do not live here in spite of my professional passion. It is actually the opposite. This is quite a good place for professional growth. Challenges abound that offer good opportunities for learning. My boss loves me for staying. Almost nobody else remains in this extreme Arctic place for more than two years. After having me to sign an "I-promise-to-not-move-in-two-years-after-my-education-is finished" contract, they even happily financed my full psychoanalytic training, including my air fare for a psychoanalysis in another town that lasted for several years.
They are also very pleased with my being a part of Div. 39. When I was awarded the Tabin Book Proposal Prize last year, the hospital's public relations department proudly (and loudly) announced that an employee of theirs had gotten a major book contract. In fact, the newspaper headline read: "Hospital employee got a book contract with the world's greatest publisher!" Suddenly everybody in town knew about APA. Accomplishing something of note in America sounded quite important, even if they did not understand exactly what it was. But everybody was very happy for me. Hammerfest was somehow connected to the real world. Someone from their town was doing something in the United States. My hairdresser still talks about it every time I get my hair cut. My neighbors ask about APA, the physicians in town gossip about it, and my patients often refer to it. I guess Hammerfest is the one town in the world where APA Books is most known and loved among the citizens.
When I was asked to represent the division at a network meeting for the APA Board of Women in Psychology at the Washington Convention in August, my boss tried hard to get the schedule of the clinic to adapt to my absence. I knew no psychiatrists were visiting for a few summer weeks, and they needed me on duty for all the emergency cases. And yet she insisted, "We'll fix it somehow. You'll have to go; we are so proud of you." The feeling of being connected to the outside world was urgent.
When I travel in the United States, I am clearly an outsider. But despite travelling alone, I have never felt alone. Americans are notably polite and friendly.
My view of Div. 39 is that it is inclusive and warm. It initiates everybody into the tribe. It is progressive in terms of social justice and human rights, at least relative to many other American communities and organizations. To a Scandinavian, the U.S. can seem confusing: friendly, humanistic, and yet harshly individualistic at the same time. In Scandinavia, parental leave and free health care are taken for granted, along with paid sick leave, free abortion, no guns, no death penalty, and less idealization of the military. We do not send black, addicted, pregnant women who miscarry to jail for murder for "killing their fetuses." Gay couples have marriage rights. My town has no homeless people. Taxes are accepted as an obvious social need, since a lot of Scandinavians hate private charity. The idea is that helping others should be not an option but a duty. Tipping is not done except in some fancy restaurants. The argument is that people should not have to depend on tips; they should instead have a reasonable income. Tipping is a loaded activity because it can be received as a message that the tipped person is inferior.
I have been struck with such differences as I view the U.S. through Scandinavian eyes. In America, people like to talk. If one presents at a conference, they generously share thoughts and reflections. The room is seldom embarrassingly silent. In Scandinavia, audiences are more shy and silent. People who feel brave might ask a question. Or they wait for the break and then approach a speaker. In the U.S., people do not seem shy. They ask less but comment more. I guess Americans are braver when it comes to talking and also to offering leadership.
People in Scandinavia do not campaign for central positions in organizations. The first time I saw a "Vote for X” button in the context of APA, I was very confused. It seemed extreme. An American friend asked: So how do you do it in Scandinavia if you want to run for an important position? I had to think: I did not really know. I had never thought about it. Then an unspoken rule suddenly became clear. In Scandinavia one has to wait to be asked. One should be willing to serve, but then turn down the request at least twice before accepting. Once a favorite female politician in Sweden made the mistake of saying she actually wanted to become the prime minister. That comment was interpreted as so self-aggrandizing that she never had a fair chance to be elected. Admitting that she wanted power had the effect of decreasing her support. I guess the American way is more honest and more direct.
What I sometimes miss in Div. 39 is a broader perspective on rural realities and world-wide realities. It has, for example, struck me that most members seem connected to urban areas, have busy urban private practices, or teach at impressive urban universities. Where are the members from Alaska? Are there any? Where are the indigenous voices? Are there any? Where are the reflections on how to include more international thinkers in the community? Where are the members working for public hospitals? I miss the voices from those in the international community whose supervisors are less generous than mine. I also believe a lot of Americans are not really aware of the extent of their privilege in having English as a mother tongue and being naturally connected to great professional centers. Sometimes I wonder if many of them even can imagine the effort it takes to write, discuss or learn in a second or a third language.
I once visited an international conference in Rome where several Americans suggested in a discussion: "To include the rest of the world, the more important therapy literature should be translated into Spanish and other languages." When I suggested the converse, that perhaps important ideas are to be found in other parts of the world, and maybe Americans could, if wanting to contribute to the international psychoanalytic community, encourage people for whom English is a second or third language to be brave enough to participate and start to publish. Offering proofreading and stylistic advice, for example, would be a genuine service. The audience laughed self-consciously. Nobody seemed to have considered that before. Everybody assumed it was self-evident that the best ideas are American. I wish Americans traveled more, going to conferences in other countries, not just to present but to listen and to learn other languages and perspectives.
Let me come back, Dennis, to summarizing my view of the division “from the outside.” Despite cultural differences and extreme geographical distance, I feel a sense of welcome and belonging. My wife even wondered, “What did he really mean, 'reflecting from the outside'? I never heard you say you felt you were not inside!” I had to remind her of geography, and we giggled. I am grateful to be a part of the Div. 39 movement. For more outside views I think you would be wise to ask rural clinicians, young people, and people not connected to impressive urban universities. And you should ask people in other countries who are not privileged enough to have such a wise and generous boss as I have.
P.S. You are all very welcome to come to Hammerfest! And if one of my readers is the blue-haired American coming with Hurtigruta or the tourist ferries, please let me know. I’m delighted to show you around.
This week, the APA Convention that will take place in Washington, D.C., will once again include a fine program of Div. 39 panels, some of which are co-sponsored with other divisions. I want to thank our Program Committee chair, Colin Ennis, and our Membership Committee co-chair, Devon King, for assembling such a rich slate of Div. 39 programs at APA this year.
The Div. 39 Executive Committee (which consists of the president, past president and/or president-elect, treasurer, secretary and Div. 39’s representatives to APA Council) and Board will meet as we do each August at the APA Convention. This year, these meetings will take place in the context of the intense political tumult in our nation, within APA and within our division.
Like many of us in the division who interact fairly frequently with colleagues and staff in APA and its other divisions, I often have a very different sense of myself depending on the particular context in which I find myself at APA. I feel most comfortable and most fully myself with my Div. 39 colleagues. With colleagues outside of Div. 39, I find that I am more on guard and sometimes preoccupied with what these colleagues might think about psychoanalysis and our division. In some ways, going to APA often feels to me like visiting relatives with whom I have a shared history and sense of similarity, but who feel very different from me in many ways.
Staying connected while recognizing and respecting differences is a lifelong challenge for so many of us. We are struggling with this as a nation right now as we continue fighting in what some have described as the current American civil war. Just this past week, many readers and contributors to the Div. 39 Forum, our listserv, experienced great pain in the course of discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some were so offended that they wondered whether they should remain members of the division.
I understand their dilemma. Whether to remain a member of APA and the extent to which I should involve myself with APA are questions that plagued me for a long time. I respected the decision of many admired colleagues who decided to resign from APA, but felt that I could not yet take that step, given my history with APA and my identifications with esteemed colleagues and mentors who devoted so much of themselves to APA and the profession of psychology. There has been enough change in APA that I have decided to remain a member, but I still feel confusion and ambivalence about it.
As I struggle to navigate the politics of our country, of APA, and of our division, I remain comforted by the words of my colleague Rachel Kabasakalian McKay, co-director of the Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis of Philadelphia (IRPP). I’ve quoted her in this column before and in my presidential address at this past April’s spring meeting in New York.
In Rachel’s words, we must all, “try to navigate this historical moment in a way that strengthens community while deepening our capacities to recognize complexity and difference amongst us.” As psychoanalytic psychologists, I think that we do this every day in our work with clients, and I believe that this skill positions us to develop new ways of coming together and negotiating the complexity and differences among us.
For me, trying to deepen my capacity to recognize complexity and difference in the groups of which I am a part involves pushing myself to remain engaged and to attempt to understand the experiences of others, even if I am offended by their speech or actions. I encourage all members of the division to do what they can to remain engaged in these important national and organizational political conversations. I and others who are part of the Div. 39 Board are working hard on creating or strengthening the structures that will ensure truly civil discourse at our meetings and conferences and on our listserv. I welcome your thoughts and recommendations about how we can achieve this. Thank you.
Dennis M. Debiak, PsyD
- Make teaching psychotherapy research a part of case conferences and didactic course in order to help enhance the value of psychodynamic approaches.
- Support students who are interested in becoming psychodynamic practitioners by helping them:
- Find psychodynamic supervisors and mentors
- Network with other psychodynamic clinicians
- Find referrals for their personal therapy/analysis
- Graduate training programs need to provide programming for students to have exposure to cutting-edge psychoanalytic thinkers and writers.
- For both students and faculty, there needs to be a stronger emphasis on educating and correcting misinformation about psychodynamic treatment effectiveness within training programs.
- This is no time to retreat or be insular–or to be fighting over which psychodynamic theoretical orientation is better.
- There needs to be more education of the public that there are additional and effective forms of psychotherapy other than CBT. It is overly simplistic to believe that one form of treatment can be the best for all patients.
"The Times, They Are A-Changin’ How About Us?" is the question posed to the Division of Psychoanalysis by the Steering Committee of last week’s 37th Annual Spring Meeting in New York City. My sense of the answer to this question is a resounding, “yes.” People had very different experiences at this year’s meeting, as is always the case, but a large and diverse group of people shared with me that the division is changing is important ways. Clearly, we are talking more about identities and the ways these dimensions of who we are impact our clinical work, our worldview and our lives.
The co-chairs of the excellent 2017 spring meeting were Maria Lechich and Barry Cohen. The committee members were Eugenio Duarte, Jonathan Eger, Tom Johnson, Alan Kintzer, Steven Kuchuck, Emily Kuriloff, Kevin Meehan, Liat Tsuman and Cleonie White. The keynote speakers, Allan Schore and Cleonie White, presented compelling and moving addresses that focused on neuropsychoanalysis and race, respectively. I was brought to tears by the music, visual art and literature that White used in her fascinating and comprehensive discussion of skin color and oppression.
Colin Ennis, the chair of the division’s Program Committee, did a beautiful job advising the Steering Committee and acting as a liaison between these committees and Natalie P. Shear Associates, our professional conference planner for almost 25 years. The division has conflicting goals for the spring meeting: we want creative, high-quality programs and program formats, special events and opportunities to for socialization AND we also want to respect tried-and-true procedures and not lose money. Colin, like our former Program Committee chairs, is at the epicenter of this conflict and negotiates it with aplomb.
Of course, there are difficult realities we must acknowledge about the ways in which our nation and our division are not equally protective of all of us. While many felt more welcome at our spring meeting than before, microaggressions and macroagressions related to ability status, race, class, culture, age and generational influences, religion, political affiliation and national origin happened. The board of directors, sections, committees and task forces of the division are in the process of reflecting on the meeting and how we talk to each other so that we can continue to work toward making the division as welcoming and respectful of all of our members and guests. As Past President Marilyn Charles said to me, “we have been actively working at listening to what goes wrong sufficiently that we can continue to build towards greater inclusiveness, which will allow us to increasingly enjoy the benefits or our plurality and many voices.”
In this regard, attendees of the meeting will be receiving a survey about their experience of the meeting. I know that we all get too many requests for us to fill out surveys and give feedback, but I implore those of who were in attendance in NYC will take the time to complete the survey and help us to continue to improve our spring meetings.
Thanks to all of you who worked so hard for so long to make this such a successful meeting in so many ways. I will remember this meeting for years to come and I know that many attendees will also. In the context of global sociopolitical unrest and serious threats to our health and safety, I want the Division of Psychoanalysis to continue to evolve as a strong community that works toward recognizing the complexity and difference among us. Thank you.
Dennis M. Debiak, PsyD
As we begin 2016, we are afforded the opportunity of taking stock of where we are in relation to where we would like to be. As we know, crisis and opportunity are tightly woven with one another, making it important for each of us to come forward and seize whatever opportunities we find in our various communities to make a difference in the lives and well-being of those around us. The recent events that have arisen in relation to the Hoffman Report remind us that, as psychologists, we have a mandate to be mindful of and attentive to the well-being of others. I hope that you will take the opportunity afforded by this new year to strengthen your efforts at constructive engagement in your personal and professional lives, both within and outside of the division, to build a better future for us all.
For those of you with aspirations for public service who have had trouble finding a direction, there are many committees within the division where you might find colleagues with similar interests.
I wish you a new year that brings peace and goodwill to all,
We are living in trying times. More clearly than ever, the safety and well-being of each of us depends on the safety and well-being of all. Our hearts go out to the people of Syria, where living conditions are so impossible as to have forced this mass migration and displacement of home, heart and family. Our hearts go out to the people of France, whose well-being has been shattered by the recent attacks that have brought war into the heart of their daily life. The widespread unrest and instability across the globe reminds us of the price of paying insufficient attention and respect to the needs of any group that is suffering. How we bring peace and love rather than war and hatred to this planet remains to be seen.
In the midst of this chaos and unrest, APA offered their first Psychology in the Public Interest Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. Although difficulties within APA have been highlighted recently, this, too, is APA, an organization that focuses substantial energy and resources on trying to better understand the causes of distress and to better advocate for social change and social justice.
The purpose of this event was to offer information to APA leaders that might assist them in being more effective in advocating for issues of importance to them. This was a working conference, offering an interplay of didactic information and working sessions to help members to integrate the information being offered and to apply that information to their own particular concerns regarding social issues.
The preconference evening began with introductions to leaders in the Directorate of Public Interest and of the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest, along with information as to resources available within those agencies to support the efforts of APA members and divisions. The first full day consisted of presentations about how to most effectively communicate findings from science, and about interventions that have been effective in producing social change. Break-out sessions were offered to allow participants to work together to discuss and integrate the information offered and to consider how we might apply that information to our own concerns. The final presentation that day was by Lynn Davey, whose talk focused on “Utilizing Psychology to Effect Social Change.” She offered clear, practical information regarding how best to have an impact on public understanding through social media. I trust that we can make use of the information she offered to help division members who are working on social welfare and social justice issues to be more effective in achieving their aims.
The second day, participants divided into three tracks. The first focused on dissemination for public messages, the second for legislative audiences and the third for executive branch audiences. Much of the material will be accessible to me online and I hope to make use of it within the division so that we can more effectively advocate for the values we cherish and provide solutions for the issues of pressing concern.
Given the extent of the suffering here and abroad, it becomes even more important to be able to make use of whatever resources are available, at all levels, to bring the tools afforded by a psychoanalytic lens to bear on the problems of our day.
I wish you all a joyful and peaceful holiday season,
Marilyn Charles, PhD
President of Div. 39
In this month's column, I would like to report on just two of the many offerings through which members can find and build support for their efforts.
On Oct. 14-15 Austen Riggs hosted the second working conference focusing on training issues at the graduate student level. Through both large and small group formats, we considered ways in which we might be more proactive in supporting efforts to find a more effective and constructive interface between APA requirements and psychodynamic clinical values. Jackie Wall, the new director for consultation and accreditation at APA joined us to consider difficulties attendees were encountering and to offer suggestions regarding how we might more effectively utilize resources at APA and also have an impact on training and practice guidelines. There was an atmosphere of collegiality and mutual respect that was heartening and generative.
Attendees focused on concerns that arise in teaching, pleased to be able to share problems and possible solutions with one another. An area of particular concern was the diversity course, and several attendees agreed to propose a roundtable discussion for APA 2016 in Denver, to further discuss these issues.
On Oct. 24-25, I attended the annual conference of the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society (APCS) at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Many Div. 39 members attended. This is a forum in which each participant can find a place at the table, and it was heartening to see so many young people presenting their work in ways that enlarged and deepened the conversations. APCS is a group where psychoanalysis and social justice are at the heart of the mission, which makes for a sense of community and collaboration. Conversations occur across disciplines, which helps to broaden and enlarge those conversations in ways that create alternative possibilities and avenues for exploration and for finding possible solutions to some of the social and clinical problems we face.
I bring up these two experiences because I found them so energizing. Each event helped me to feel part of a broader community of individuals also working towards the greater good. Through these communities, my own efforts are refined and strengthened and new ideas can be considered. Div. 39 meets once yearly and yet we need support throughout the year. Finding ways of recognizing common needs and possibilities for support and assistance strengthens us all.
Warm regards to you all,
Marilyn Charles, PhD
President of Div. 39