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416 Psychoanalysis and Culture – 4 seminars

Seminar Leaders: Dr. K. Tuters and Dr. Vallabhaneni

Course Description

Psychoanalysis and Culture: Its role and impact on psychoanalytic work  

This four seminar course is designed to increase the candidates’ awareness of cultural factors that significantly affect their work when providing therapy for patients who come from different cultural backgrounds. The course draws the candidates’ attention to the fact that there can be dynamics of power differential and deeper biases, both within the therapist and the patient. These can be overt or covert. Thus it is of vital importance for the therapist to be aware of one’s own reactions and values, and to maintain a safe and effective way of using the therapeutic self in the service of the patient’s needs and goals.

The course emphasises the importance of having to recognize and understand that there are often two quite different “cultural norms” that are brought together when therapist and patient meet. Each of them has acquired a specific norm within the culture of their origin, e.g. the use of language; expression of emotions; beliefs; behavioural patterns. These become deeply imbedded into the person’s unconscious. The awareness of these factors helps the therapist to differentiate between what is psychopathological in the patient, or on the other hand, is it part of their cultural norm. The therapist’s approach has to be adapted to the patient’s specific needs at the psychological level, but also at a more practical level of providing orientation in a strange environment. The topics that are covered in this course are:

The impact of our “mother tongue” and how it colours the language that we use; the choice of words and their emotional meaning;

The transitional dynamics of immigration and acculturation, and the understanding of contextual and systemic factors;

Recognizing the ways in which our specific cultural prejudices affect our viewpoints and our behaviour;

Clinical illustrations, from a practical perspective of doing therapy in a cross-cultural situation.

Course Objectives

The candidate will learn to:

  1. Establish a safe, effective and mutually understanding therapeutic relationship (1.2), when therapist and patient come from very different cultural backgrounds. (1.5)
  2. Recognize the therapist’s own “natural” values and attitudes (1.4), and with that awareness be able to maintain an open-minded, receptive and non-judgmental attitude (1.4, 4.2) in the context of cultural diversity. (1.5)
  3. Maintain respect for the differences of viewpoint, so that they can be integrated into a new hybrid cultural norm. (1.5)
  4. Differentiate problematic and puzzling behavioural patterns and thinking modes, in terms of whether they are part of a different cultural norm, or whether they stem from personal or family psychopathology. (1.3, 1.5)

Seminar 1

Language and affect, and its origin in a specific cultural milieu

Required Readings

Freeman, Daniel M. A. (2005). Joint looking, shared experiencing, and verbalizing affects in the United States and Japan. In The Language of Emotions (pp. 49-64).  Salman Akhtar & Harold Blum (Eds.). New York, NY: Jason Aronson.

Amati Mehler, J., Argentieri, S. & Canestri, J. (1990). The Babel of the Unconscious. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 71, 569-581.

Seminar 2

Immigration and acculturation

Required Readings

Akhtar, Salman. (2011). The trauma of geographic dislocation. In Immigration and Acculturation (pp. 3-27). New York, NY: Jason Aronson.

Akhtar, Salman. (1995). A third individuation: immigration, identity, and the psychoanalytic process. Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association, 43,1051-1077.

Seminar 3

Prejudice – benign and malignant, and racial factors affecting psychoanalysis

Required Readings

Twemlow, Stuart W. & Sacco, Frank. (Eds.). (2007). The prejudices of everyday life, with observations from field trials. In The Future of Prejudice (pp. 237-254). Published by New York, NY: Jason Aronson.

Parens, Henri. (2007). Toward understanding prejudice – benign and malignant. In The Future of Prejudice (pp. 21-36). Henri Parens, Afaf Mahfouz, Stuart Twemlow, David Scharff, (Eds.). New York, NY: Jason Aronson.

Seminar 4

Doing psychoanalysis in a cross-cultural setting: with patients of a non-english speaking origin; with patients from significantly different cultures; being an immigrant psychoanalyst.

Required Readings

Tummala-Narra, Pratysha. (2015). Cultural competence as a core emphasis of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 32(2), 275-292.

Akhtar, Salman. (1999). Psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy cross-cultural settings. In Immigration and Identity (pp. 111-137).   New York, NY: Jason Aronson.

Akhtar, Salman. (2006). Technical challenges faced by the immigrant psychoanalyst. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 75, 21-40.

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