Theory and practice blend in Exploring Psychoanalysis class

Top, At the last class of the year, Exploring Psychoanalysis participants welcomed incoming program director Nancy Lawrenz, back row third from left, and offered appreciation for outgoing director Dale Gody, fourth from left.  Below, photos of Peñate and of Busch and Murphy.

The first Saturday in June marked the last class for Exploring Psychoanalysis participants. As they had once a month since September,  students met to discuss readings and topics in psychoanalytic psychotherapy followed by a case conference where one of their own would present on an aspect of their clinical work.

The free program provides an entree into psychodynamic psychotherapy for eligible students and professionals who want to know more and, often, apply it to their own practice.  Participants meet once a month to discuss assigned topical readings and participate in case conferences. Each has a mentor drawn from among the Institute faculty.

The deadline for next fall is July 12; learn more and apply here.

This June marked the final class for Dale Gody, who has taught in the program for five years and directed it for the past four, as she prepares to move out of the area.  Also at the class was Nancy Lawrenz, a faculty member and psychologist in private practice who is the incoming Exploring Psychoanalysis program director.

As the final class of the year came to an end, appreciation for the program and Gody’s role came from the students, a diverse group of mental-health practitioners, advanced psychiatry students, academics, and others.  

That mix was a big part of the value of the program for Northwestern palliative care chaplain and educator Edward Peñate.  The interdisciplinary nature of the group added to discussions about the concepts covered, he said.

Exploring Psychoanalysis students Bianca Pullen Busch, a psychiatry resident at University of Chicago Medical Center said she was pleasantly surprised by how accessible the program was.  Busch signed up for Exploring Psychoanalysis despite concerns about the time commitment.

"I’m glad I did,” Busch said. "It’s been refreshing to be among other [types of] mental health professionals and to think about what’s happening [more] psychologically [than] medically.” Busch and other students particularly appreciated Gody’s willingness to talk about her practice from a personal point of view — such as honest conversations on transference and counter-transference where the group debated dealing with both a patient’s and their own intense feelings in the analysis.

Michelle Murphy, a psychiatry resident at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, added that she also found support in the group. "It was such a warm embrace into this community and my own personal and professional development,” Murphy said.  Combined with her interest in the subject matter, it led Murphy to go deeper in her study of psychoanalysis: she decided to enroll in the Institute's Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Thought for 2019-20. "I wanted more of this sort of training and was interested in pursuing my own analysis, so this was a wonderful entry,” she said.

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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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