Mixing It Up: Race, Culture and Class and Who We Are

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President’s Message

by Michael Donner, PhD

What’s Your Brand?

As our search committee was interviewing candidates, one of them asked us “What’s your brand? Do you have an elevator speech?” That candidate (now our Executive Director Marian Banks-Nickleberry) stumped me then, and I remain a bit stumped today. I was recently interviewed by a TV reporter who asked me about SFCP. He wanted to know what we do. I fumbled around a bit, and finally settled on describing us as “an academic institution that trains mental health professionals the principles of psychoanalysis.” Wholly unsatisfied by this response, I found myself ask-ing the question: What is our brand?

Although no one asked, I do have an answer to the question: “what is psychoanalysis?” For me, psychoanalysis is a model of the mind, and a way of thinking about people and relationships based on that model. Psychoanalysis can be a form of treatment, and a way of engaging and thinking about people and groups. Right or wrong, good or bad, I have an answer to the question. It says something important that I'm not so clear about what (or who) we are at SFCP.

Message from the Executive Director

by Marian Banks-Nickleberry, MS


You are critical to our success. There are several exciting upcoming events that we want you to place on your calendars. All of them will require your time and willingness to participate.

One highlight on our calendar is the Black Psychoanalysts Speak event. This event is a wonderful opportunity for you to join a very important conversation regarding race and how it is or is not being addressed by Psychoanalysts.

However; this is just the beginning of the conversation…

We have invited our community partners (African American, Hispanic Mental Health practitioners and community members ) to see the film and take part in the conversation.

Haskell Norman Prize for Excellence in Psychoanalysis, 2015 - Scientific Meeting

by Charles P. Fisher, MD

Mark Solms, Ph.D.

At the October 12, 2015 Scientific Meeting of the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, Professor Mark Solms was awarded the Haskell Norman Prize for Excellence in Psychoanalysis. Stanley Steinberg, MD, presented the award on behalf of the Haskell Norman Committee. Dr. Solms' delivered a lecture entitled "What is a Mind? A Neuropsychoanalytic Approach." Charles Fisher, MD, served as moderator.

In describing his approach to this topic, Mark Solms wrote “What is a Mind? This problem cannot be answered by a purely scientific understanding of the brain, nor by a purely philosophical or psychological approach. Minds are characterized by subjectivity, intentionality, and agency. A psychoanalytic view of mind presupposes that a large part of what we call the ‘mind’ is unconscious. The aspect of nature -- the ‘thing’ in Kant's sense - that both psychoanalysis and neuroscience try to understand is the mental apparatus (as described by Freud). Neuropsychoanalysis seeks to use data from mental experience (the data of psychoanalysis) integrated with data from neuroscience to achieve a deeper view of the mental apparatus.”

Readers might be interested in a slide from this lecture (see below), in which Professor Solms compared regions of the human brain associated with particular mental functions with Freud’s well-known diagram of the psychic apparatus.

SFCP Book Corner

by Mary Brady, PhD

This month we are reviving an old feature of the Newsletter—Book Corner—in which members are invited to share brief descriptions of their recent publications (i.e., books). Please feel free to share news of your work here (submit to Cathy Witzling and Lynda Connelly by the 26th of the month). We begin with a description of a new work by Mary Brady, PhD, published by Routledge Press.

The Body in Adolescence: Psychic Isolation and Physical Symptoms, examines the affective experience of psychic I solation as an important and painful element of adolescent development. It begins by discussing how psychic isolation, combined with the intensity of adolescent processes, can leave adolescents unable to articulate their experience. The book then shows how the therapist can understand and help adolescents whose difficulty with articulation and symbolization can leave them vulnerable to breakdown into physical symptoms.

This book introduces the concept of psychic isolation during adolescence in the first chapter and links this isolation (from internal and external objects) with the vulnerability to physical symptoms. Subsequent chapters are clinical essays involving adolescent patients presenting with bodily expressions such as anorexia, bulimia, cutting, substance abuse, and suicide attempts. Attention is also paid to adolescents’ use of social media in relation to these bodily symptoms – such as their use of on-line ‘pro-ana’ or cutting sites. The book uses Bion’s conceptualization of containment and the balance of psychotic versus integrative parts of the personality to examine the emergence of concrete bodily symptoms in adolescence.

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