Welcoming a new Exploring Psychoanalysis cohort

Weekend visits to Chicago from their home in Indianapolis are a tradition for psychiatrist Waqar Mahmud and his family.  One Saturday in 2016, he stopped by the McLean Library to learn more about the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute. He’s kept up his connection to the school—and this fall Mahmud is one of 25 participants in Exploring Psychoanalysis at the Institute. 

Exploring Psychoanalysis is a free program that exposes trainees and recent graduates in psychiatry, psychology, and social work--plus those from other backgrounds with significant interest in psychoanalysis--to a core body of knowledge.  The program provides a framework to understand and carry out therapeutic work.

"We love training and spreading the gospel,” says Dale Gody, director of the program. She says many participants go on to pursue further psychoanalytic education. Gody is in her third year leading the program, started in the 1990s as the Psychoanalytic Fellowship.  She worked for more than 20 years as a psychologist before studying psychoanalysis at the Chicago Institute, and currently maintains a private practice in Wilmette.

At the first monthly meeting, Gody facilitates a discussion about core concepts of analysis presented in assigned reading from the book A Psychotherapy for the People, a 2014 cultural history of psychoanalysis.  A medical resident shares her discomfort with the concept of neutrality — very different from psychiatrists’ medical training to identify and share a diagnosis with their patients. 

Gody leads the group in a conversation that touches on both theory and the practicalities of doing therapy.  “Everything that happens between the therapeutic dyad is an interaction between the histories of both patient and therapist,” Gody says.  “We are always trying to sort out what the patient is evoking in us and who we are to the patient.  That’s a tall order!”

About a quarter of this year’s participants are residents and medical doctors seeking a deeper exposure to psychoanalysis than they received in med-school training in psychiatry.  Others include therapists and counselors from the Erikson Institute, Thresholds community mental health center, other area agencies or in private practice. The group also includes an anthropologist, hospital chaplain, writer, and professor of literature.

In addition to seminars once a month, each participant receives a mentor who is an Institute faculty member, and free admission to  Institute continuing-education programs.  Gody also organizes case consultation days for students who want to share and learn from each others’ clinical cases. 

As the first meeting wrapped up, Mahmud shares that a mentor at Indiana University School of Medicine, psychiatrist Alan Schmetzer, was a dedicated analyst.  From Schmetzer, Mahmud says, he absorbed the idea that analysis offers a corrective to over-reliance on prescriptions.  “Patients can get better to some extent from medication,” Mahmud says, “but their underlying problems will not go away.  I tell my patients, you have a lifetime of behavior that you have to figure out and fix."

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