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306 Character and Character Assessment – 11 seminars

Seminar Leaders: Drs. C Dunbar, H. Weir & J. O’Hanlon

Course Description

Character is a concept that is integral to every part of psychoanalytic work, whether it is in the foreground, or a less obvious focus of the treatment. It is possible for character not to be recognized, under considered or overlooked in our analytic work. It shapes the content and expression of the patient’s transferences and resistances, as it contributes to the analyst’s counter-transferences and resistances.

In this series of seminars, we will discuss readings that provide an introduction to the place of character in psychoanalytic thinking. The confusion and semantic ambiguities around the term character, character pathology, character neurosis, personality, and personality disorder will be discussed. We’ll look at the historical development of ideas about character, the importance of making a diagnosis and a formulation, and then focus on the mechanisms of defense. We will then discuss the main character types.

Throughout this series of seminars, there will also be sessions devoted to assessment of character. We’ll read a selection of classic papers as well as the more recent ones, and throughout all these seminars, clinical examples will be described and discussed.

Course Objectives

At the conclusion of this series of seminars, candidates will be able to:

  1. (1.3) Identify the role of character in psychoanalytic theory and its importance in clinical work, in diagnosis and formulation.
  2. (1.1) Describe the constitutive aspects of character including child and adolescent development, as well as the role of trauma (1.2).
  3. (1.4) Explain the role of transference, resistance and countertransference in character and how these phenomena might present in clinical work.
  4. (4.2) (4.3) Present clinical material relating to character and its manifestations demonstrating rapport and a non-judgmental stance during initial meetings.
  5. (4.5) Be knowledgeable about how to assess character in the clinic and how the analyst’s technique might need to be modified (4.2).

Seminar 1

Character and Character Assessment

This seminar will cover the definition of character and the history of the term. As well we will discuss how it may manifest in the clinical situation, the importance of making diagnoses and formulations, as well as how various authors and theories within psychoanalysis have understood character and its origins.

Required Readings

Baudry, Francis. (1983). The evolution of the concept of character in Freud’s writing. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 31, 3-31.

Leibert, Robert S. (1989). The concept of character – a historical review. In Masochism: Essential Papers on Character Neurosis and Treatment. New York, NY: NYU Press.

Freeman Sharpe, Ella. (1989). Chapter 7: Technique in character analysis. In Collected Papers. Ella Freeman Sharpe. New York, N.Y: Brunner Mazel.

Seminar 2

Mechanisms of Defence

This seminar will look at the mechanisms of defence as first outlined by Freud and Anna Freud. We’ll think about how and why these mechanisms develop and the role of conflict and anxiety in their genesis. How they manifest will be examined

Required Reading

Midgley,Nick. (2013). Chapter 4: The ego and the mechanisms of defence. In Reading Anna Freud (pp. 54-68). London & New York, NY: Routledge.

Baudry, Francis. (1989). Character, character type, and character organization. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37, 655-686.

Seminar 3

Exploring Development in the Assessment of Character

Required Reading

Blatt, S.J. (2006). A fundamental polarity in psychoanalysis: implications for personality development, psychopathology, and the therapeutic process. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 26, 494-520. (PEPWEB)

Abrams, S. & Solnit, A.J. (1998). Coordinating development and psychoanalytic processes: conceptualizing techniques. Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association, 46, 85-103. (PEPWEB).

Auchincloss, Elizabeth L. (2015). Core dimensions of psychoanalytic model of the mind, development. In The Psychoanalytic Model of the Mind (pp. 62-63). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Seminar 4

Considerations of Countertransference in the Assessment of Character

Required Reading

Berger, L. (1999). Assessment: the struggle towards objectivity. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 16, 146-159. (PEPWEB).

Yariv, G. (1995). Crossing the threshold. British Journal of Psychotherapy, 11, 506-513. (PEPWEB).

Auchincloss, E.L. & Samberg, E. (2012). Countertransference. In Psychoanalytic Terms and Concepts. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Seminar 5

Hysterical Personality

Required Readings

Laplanche, J, Pontalis, J.B. (1973). Hysteria. In the Language of Psychoanalysis (pp. 194-197). London: Norton.

Shapiro, David. (1965). Chapter 4: Hysterical styles. In Neurotic Styles. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Seminar 6

Obsessional Personality

Required Readings

Halt, Jacqueline. (2005). On my way here, I passed a man with a scab: Understanding a case of severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. In The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 74(4): 1101-1126.

Billow, R.M. (2013). The bully inside us: the gang in the mind. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 33, 130-143.

McWilliams, Nancy. (2011). Chapter 13: Obsessive and compulsive personalities. In Psychoanalytic Diagnosis 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Seminar 7

Paranoid Personality

Required Readings

Sharpe, Ella Freeman. (1950). Chapter 6: Variations in technique with different neuroses: delusion, paranoia, obsession and conversion types”. In Collected Papers on Psychoanalysis. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel (1978).

Jimenez, J.P. (1993). A fundamental dilemma of psychoanalytic technique; reflections on the analysis of a perverse paranoid patient. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 74, 487-504.

McWilliams, Nancy. (2011). Chapter 10: Paranoid personalities. In Psychoanalytic Diagnosis, 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Seminar 8

Schizoid Personality

Required Readings

Guntrip Harry. (1968). Chapter 11: The schizoid compromise and psychotherapeutic stalemate (pp.288-309). In Schizoid Phenomena, Object Relations and the Self. London, UK: Hogarth Press.

McWilliams, Nancy. (2011). Chapter 9: Schizoid personalities. In Psychoanalytic Diagnosis 2nd Edition (pp. 196-213).  New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Seminar 9

Borderline Personality Disorder

Required Readings

Joseph, Betty. (1975). Chapter 5: The patient who is difficult to reach. In Psychic Equilibrium and Psychic Change: Selected Papers of Betty Joseph. London: New Library of Psychoanalysis.

Bach, S. (1998). On treating the difficult patient. In The Modern Freudians. C. Ellman, S. Grand, M. Silvan & S. Ellman (Eds.). Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

Alpert, J.L. (1991). Retrospective treatment of incest victims: Suggested analytic attitudes. Psychoanalytic Review, 78: 425-435.

Seminar 10

The Dissociative Character

Bromberg, P.M. (2010). Minding the dissociative gap. Contemp. Psychoanal., 46(1):19-31.

McWilliams, Nancy. (1999). “Chapter 5: Assessing defence”; “Chapter 6: Assessing affects”. In Psychoanalytic Case Formulation. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Auchincloss, Elizabeth L. (2015). Defences; Appendix B. In The Psychoanalytic model of the mind, (pp. 263-267). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Seminar 11

The Psychopathic Character

Required Readings

Eigen, M. (2016). Psychopathy in everyday life. Psychoanal. Rev., 103(6): 729-742.

McWilliams, Nancy. (2011). “Therapeutic implications of the diagnosis of psychopathy” (pp. 160-166); “Therapeutic implications of the diagnosis of a dissociative condition” (pp. 338-347). In A Psychoanalytic Diagnosis). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

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