In this monthly column, the Div. 39 president shares his thoughts with division members.

May 2017

"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

January 2016

Dear members,

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,


December 2015

Dear members,

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

November 2015

Dear members,

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