Undergraduates meet analysts in unique collaboration at Institute
Colorado College Professors Marcia Dunbar-Soule Dobson and John Riker organize a class on analysis for their undergraduates with support from the Institute every summer.
For the past 11 years, the Institute has played a unique role in helping to communicate a passion for psychoanalysis to Colorado College students as the site of Dobson's and Riker's popular summer school course, “Contemporary Psychoanalysis.”
Faculty serve as guest lecturers throughout the four-week program. For example, the students read several chapters of Allen Siegel’s Heinz Kohut and the Psychology of Self, then meet Siegel at his home for a cookout. Faculty who presented during the June 2017 course include Arnold Goldberg, Arnold Tobin, Frank Summers, Brenda Solomon, David Terman, and others.
Riker and Dobson met as teachers at Colorado College and married decades ago. In 1998, after Dobson received her second PhD in Clinical Psychology -- the first is in Classical Philology, and her professorship is in the Classics department -- they created a minor in psychoanalysis at the school.
The couple connected with the Institute in 2003, when Riker was Kohut Visiting Professor at University of Chicago. A philosophy professor, his recent work includes the 2010 book Why It Is Good to Be Good: Ethics, Kohut's Self Psychology, and Modern Society and his 2017 Exploring the Life of the Soul: Philosophical Reflections on Psychoanalysis and Self Psychology.
“When we returned home, I spoke longingly to John expressing the wish that we could have these exceptionally gifted people come to speak at Colorado College for our Psychoanalysis Minor,” Dobson recalled recently. “We both understood this would be too expensive.”
“'Then John said, 'Well, if we can’t bring them here, why don’t we go to them?' she recalled. Institute faculty under the leadership of David Terman, former Director, welcomed the five-week program and the visiting class was born.
Analytic courses for undergrads
Riker and Dobson say that as far as they know theirs is the only undergraduate course at a psychoanalytic institute in the country. Students must have taken at least one previous course on psychoanalysis before traveling to Chicago for “Contemporary Psychoanalysis,” although many have taken far more.
“For me, the takeaway has been the opportunity to talk with psychoanalysts who are working in the present day,” said Dylan Ward of Vermont, entering his senior year. Ward created his own major in human motivation, combining psychoanalysis, literature, and film. “One theme that keeps coming up with a lot of analysts is empathy, and using that as a tool in analysis.”
Echoing that experience, Alexandra Appel, from San Diego, appreciated that the class focused less on theory than other courses. “It’s about people, not systems,” she said. Another plus of the class was the chance to learn more about non-Eurocentric notions of analysis and get beyond reading canonical texts. Appel said she plans to major in psychology with a minor in psychoanalysis and eventually to work as a clinician.
Dobson said students have gone on from the psychoanalysis minor at Colorado College to further study to become social workers, get a doctorate in psychology, or other programs, including at George Washington University, Smith College, University of Chicago, Institute for Clinical Social Work in Chicago, Denver University, and elsewhere.
The class is the crown jewel of the school’s minor in psychoanalysis program, according to Dobson: “We get people interested in psychoanalysis, and once they’re interested they really want to pursue it.”