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407 Psychoanalysis and Culture: Its Role and Impact on Psychoanalytic Work – 4 seminars

Course Leaders: M. Posadas, PhD and K. Klement, PhD

Course Description

This course examines the role of culture in the way we practice and think psychoanalysis. We will examine how internalized cultural/social biases can obstruct the appropriate use of self to effectively contribute to the development of a solid therapeutic alliance when working psychoanalytically with persons who are members of groups who have experienced oppression resulting from their demographic differences (race, ethnicity, gender, social class, sexual identity, sexual orientation, ability and disability, religious difference among others). The impact that internalized oppression (in the forms of racism, classism, sexual prejudice, religious difference etc.) has in clinical processes (intersubjectivity, therapeutic allicance, enactments, transference and counter-transference, the use of defenses) with such patients will also be examined. Using case material from their own practice, candidates will have the opportunity to reassess the impact of their clinical interventions with members from these population groups using a variety of perspectives.

Course Objectives

  1. To examine the effective use of self in the formation of a therapeutic alliance with patients who are members of oppressed population groups. (
1.5,1.2, 1.3, 4.3)
  2. To describe the impact of clinical processes (such as intersubjectivity, therapeutic alliance, enactments, transference and counter-transference, the use of defenses) on the formation of the therapeutic alliance with patients who are members of oppressed population groups. (1.1.3, 1.5, 3.3)
  3. To explore the influence of the clinician’s own cultural identity on the formation of the therapeutic alliance with patients from oppressed population groups. 
(1.4, 3.3)
  4. To gain increased knowledge and skill in conceptualizing and formulating culturally informed and responsive therapeutic alliances with patients belonging to oppressed population groups. 
(1.2, 3.2, 4.5)
  5. To clarify the process for repair of an impasse and/or rupture in the formation of a therapeutic alliance with patients who are members oppressed population groups.
(1.5, 3.4, 4.3)

Seminar 1

The cultures of psychoanalysis

How have race and culture shaped psychoanalysis? Does psychoanalysis have a culture? How does the dominant culture of the society shape the analyst’s position and blindspots? Looking specifically at Freud’s cultural context, we explore the ways that Freud’s Jewishness, and the anti-Semitic culture within which he lived, may have shaped the psychoanalytic theory and technique that he developed. We also examine ‘whiteness,’ the often invisible culture that predominates in Canada, and in psychoanalytic societies across North America. The goals of this seminar are to develop

Required Readings

Sander L. Gilman “Freud, Race, and Gender” (1992). American Imago, 49 (2): 155-183.

Suchet, M. (2007). Unraveling Whiteness. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 17(6):867-886

Recommended Readings

Altman, N. (2006). Whiteness. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 75(1):45-72

Seminar 2

Race and racism in the consulting room: Working in the transference and countertransference

What differences do the racial identities of analyst and patient make in the clinic? How do racial and cultural differences and prejudices manifest in the transference and countertransference? How do we identify psychical reality from external reality when it comes to experiences of racism? How do we deal with enactments where racism and other forms of violence appear in the therapeutic relationship? How do we develop a solid therapeutic alliance with members of sexual, social and racialized minorities.

Required Readings

Abbasi, A. (2012). A Very Dangerous Conversation: The Patient’s Internal Conflicts Elaborated Through the Use of Ethnic and Religious Differences between Analyst and Patient. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 93(3):515-534

Davids, M. F. (2003). The internal racist. Bulletin of the British Psychoanalytical Society 39 (4): 1-15.

Recommended Readings

Hamer, F.M. (2006). Racism as a transference state: Episodes of racial hostility in the psychoanalytic context. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 75, 197-214.

Hamer, F.M. (2002). Guards at the Gate. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 50(4):1219-1237

Seminar 3

Culture and Intergenerational Trauma

How are the psychical lives of some of our patients shaped by the traumas experienced by members of their families and their communities? What are psychoanalytic approaches to intergenerational trauma?

Required Readings

Lijtmaer, R. (2017). Untold Stories And The Power Of Silence In The Intergenerational Transmission Of Social Trauma. American Journal of Psychoanalysis. 77, 274–284 (2017).

Michael O’Loughlin (2009). A psychoanalytic exploration of collective trauma among Indigenous Australians and a suggestion for intervention, Australasian Psychiatry, 17(sup1): 33-36.

Recommended Readings

Wanlass, J. (2013). The Intergenerational and Cultural Transmission of Trauma in Chinese Couple Relationships. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 3(2):214-228

Seminar 4

Geographic Dislocations, Immigration, Border Crossing

Following a trauma perspective, we will explore these aspects and the impact in cultural identity and how does psychoanalysis treat the impacts of immigration and cultural dislocation?

Required Readings

Akhtar, S. (1995). A third individuation: Immigration, identity, and the psychoanalytic process. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic  Association, 43(4), 1051-1084.

Ainslie, R.C. (2017). Immigration, Psychic Dislocation, and the Re-Creation of Community. Psychoanal. Rev., 104(6):695-706.

Suggested Readings

Akhtar, S. (2014). The Mental Pain of Minorities. Brit. J. Psychother., 30:136-153.

Akhtar, Salmon (2011). The trauma of geographic dislocation. In Immigration and Acculturation (pp. 3-27). Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson.

Benjamin, J. (1998). The shadow of the other subject: Intersubjectivity and feminist theory. Shadow of the other: Intersubjectivity and gender in psychoanalysis (ch. 3: pp. 79-108). New York: Routledge, Inc.

Berzoff, J., Flanagan, L.M., & Hertz, P. (2011). Inside out and outside in: Psychodynamic clinical theory and psychopathology in contemporary multicultural contexts (3ed.). New Jersey: Jason Aronson/Roman Littlefield.

Bonovitz, C. (2005). Locating culture in the psychic field: Transference and countertransference as cultural products. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 41 (1), 55-75.

Bryant-Davis, T. (2007). Healing Requires Recognition: The Case for Race-Based Traumatic Stress, The Counseling Psychologist 2007; 35; 135

Comas-Diaz, L., & Jacobsen, F.M. (1995). The therapist of color and the white patient dyad: Contradictions and recognitions. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health, 1(2), 93-106.

Comas-Diaz, L. (2006). Latino healing: The integration of ethnic psychology into psychotherapy. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 43(4), 436-453.

Hamilton-Mason, J. (2004). Psychodynamic perspectives: Responding to the assessment needs of people of color? Smith College Studies in Social Work, 74, 315-332.

Holmes, D. E. (1992). Race and transference in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 73, 1-11.

Holmes, D. E. (1999). Race and countertransference: Two “blind spots” in psychoanalytic perception. Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 1, 319-332.

Perez Foster, R.M. (1999). An intersubjective approach to cross-cultural clinical work. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 69(2), 269-291.

Roughton, R.E.(2002). Rethinking Homosexuality. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 50:733-763

Tummala-Narra, P. (2009). The relevance of a psychoanalytic perspective in exploring religious and spiritual identity in psychotherapy. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 26(1), 83-95.

Tummala-Narra, P.(2007). Skin Color and the Therapeutic Relationship. Psychoanal. Psychol., 24(2):255-270

Davids, M. F. (2003). The internal racist. Bulletin of the British Psychoanalytical Society 39 (4): 1-15.

Leary, K. (2007). Racial insult and repair. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 17(4), 539- 549.

Rasmussen, B 7 Salhani, D., (2010). A contemporary kleinian contribution to understanding racism. Social Service Review,84(3).pp. 491-513.


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