Dear Psyche on Campus subscribers and other readers,

Psyche on Campus has been on hiatus for a few months while I’ve been finishing a new book, Psychoanalysis and the University: Resistance and Renewal from Freud to the Present, which will be published by Routledge in 2025. (More about that as the publication date approaches.) The blog is getting back up to speed with some terrific posts lined up for publication soon.

Meanwhile, here are four timely announcements sure to be of interest to many of you:

First up, on June 2 (that’s this coming Sunday!)

Consider tuning in to the free, online conference on “Psychodynamic Psychology in Academia: A Call to Action.” The panels and discussions will take place between 11:00am and 2:15pm (EST). To register (again, it’s free to all!), visit

Calling all undergraduate writers and their instructors!

Submissions are due by September 30, 2024, for the American Psychoanalytic Association’s annual Undergraduate Essay Prize. This $500 prize will be awarded to an undergraduate essay which engages psychoanalytic ideas in relation to a focused question, in any academic discipline. Essays must be submitted by the instructor (just one submission per instructor, please). For complete details and submission instructions, visit

Scholars and clinician writers take note!

The journal Re:visit~ Humanities & Medicine in Dialogue is now accepting article submissions of 6,000-8,000 words—in either English or German—for its next open section issue. The submission deadline is November 30, 2024. Re:visit publishes critical and (self-)reflexive writing about concepts and questions that place medicine (including mental health and mental healthcare policy) and the humanities in dialogue with one another. Theoretical, historical, and clinical/empirical approaches are all welcome. For complete details and submission instructions, (re)visit

Calling all readers!

If you’re a reader of Psyche on Campus then you almost certainly have something to say about psychoanalysis and undergraduate education, whether as a teacher, student, clinician, or administrator—maybe something you’d like to share? Psyche on Campus is especially eager to hear from those of you who are psychoanalytic training institute affiliates, candidates, faculty, and/or administrators, as well as from clinicians in private practice and those of you who are active in APsA, Division 39, IPA, etc. What are your views on the importance of teaching psychoanalysis at the undergraduate level? How important to you is it that new generations of college students have more and better opportunities to learn about psychoanalysis? What sorts of benefits might result from expanding the scope of undergraduate psychoanalytic education? What about the possibility of independent analytic institutes joining forces with universities? Any and all points of view are welcome. Send your short (800-1200 words) post or pitch your idea to me at

Psychoanalytic and Therapeutic Writing in the Classroom

by Jeffrey Berman

In an unusually pessimistic essay, “Analysis Terminable and Interminable,” published in 1939 (the year of his death), Freud called psychoanalysis one of the three “impossible professions,” along with education and government. “One can be sure beforehand,” Freud ruefully confesses, “of achieving unsatisfying results” (1964, 248). My own experience with psychoanalytic education, however, has been far more satisfying. Indeed, for over 50 years at the University of Albany, I’ve made the writing of psychoanalytic diaries and personal essays a highly successful keystone in my undergraduate teaching.

In the mid-1970s, I created the first course on literature and psychoanalysis in our English department. Its central feature was the weekly psychoanalytic diary entries in which students wrote about their dreams—the “royal road to the unconscious,” as Freud puts it (1953, 5: 608)—fantasies, and psychological conflicts. Students could be as personal as they wished in their diaries; no subject was off limits. I didn’t grade the diaries, but they were a fundamental requirement. Before returning the diaries the following week, I would read a few entries out loud, always anonymously and with no discussion—always honoring requests from students who didn’t want their diary entries read aloud. At the beginning of the semester, I got many such requests. But by the end of the semester almost all of them gave permission.

Indeed, the shared audition of these diary entries became revelatory for all of us. Students listened far more attentively to one another’s diaries than to what I had to say! At the end of the semester, in their anonymous class evaluations, students singled out the diary component as the best part of the course—the one in which they learned the most about themselves, their classmates, and psychoanalysis. They never realized, they said, how much they had in common with their fellow classmates, many of whom struggled with the same kinds of unconscious conflicts and other psychological and emotional challenges.

After teaching the course for several years, I decided to write a book about psychoanalytic diary writing. With the permission of the university’s Institutional Review Board (which oversees human-subject research on campus), I began asking students at the end of the semester, after they had received their final grades, if I could photocopy their diaries for possible use in my book. I promised students that if I used material from their diaries, I would notify them in advance how I intended to present and contextualize it. Students were able to make whatever alterations they wished to preserve their confidentiality. During the next few years, I accumulated thousands of diaries—so many, that organizing them for use in my book became an unexpected challenge.

I decided to devote a chapter to each of the major themes about which students wrote. For example, the chapter “Sins of the Fathers” explored how students wrote about their parents’ divorces; “Hunger Artists” focused on eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia; “Sexual Disclosures” revealed how students, mostly women, wrote about sexual assault, including date and stranger rape. There was also a chapter on “Suicide Survivors,” in which I myself felt painfully implicated. I’m a highly self-disclosing teacher and writer, and in my courses I often share with my students the two great tragedies in my life—the first being my college mentor’s suicide on Labor Day, 1968, when he actually telephoned me to say that he was in the process of killing himself. Research suggests that self-disclosure begets self-disclosure, and my discussion of my mentor’s suicide seems to embolden students to reveal how the dark legacy of suicide has touched their own lives.

Writing this book, Diaries to an English Professor (1994), was transformative for me. It was my third book, but the first in which I wrote about my students’ lives as well as my own, including the experience of my mentor’s suicide. Five years later, I wrote Surviving Literary Suicide (1999), a study of how teaching suicidal authors like Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway impacts undergraduate and graduate students. Writing these highly personal books, and practicing in the classroom what I’ve called the pedagogy of self-disclosure, helped me acknowledge my vulnerability, just as it helped humanize me for my students.

I noticed that other aspects of my teaching style had also begun to change. In my writing courses, I gave students more freedom to choose their own essay topics, encouraging them to write about difficult personal issues. In my literature courses, I placed greater emphasis on how other people’s stories speak to our own experiences. I regularly spoke about how, after my mentor’s death, I became involved in suicide-prevention work. I also spoke frankly about what I’ve learned about suicide—particularly that it has little to do with courage or cowardice and everything to do with hopelessness and suffering. My experience teaching self-disclosive writing courses showed me that, if teachers remain empathetic and nonjudgmental, the classroom can become what the psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott called a “holding environment” for volatile emotions. Of course, there are risks associated with such disclosive teaching, and in Risky Writing (2001) I discuss in detail the protocols I follow to minimize the possibility of harm and retraumatization.

I began teaching another course, “Writing About Love and Loss,” after the second great tragedy of my life: the death of my first wife, Barbara, to whom I’d been married for 35 years when she died from pancreatic cancer on April 5, 2004, at the age of 57. Here is an excerpt from the course description:

In this course we will focus on how writers use language to convey love and loss and the ways in which they seek consolation and hope through religion, nature, art, deeds, or memory. We will explore different kinds of love—love of God, family or friends, romantic partner, or self; we will also explore different kinds of loss—loss of religious faith, family or friends, romantic partner, health, or self-respect. I will not grade you on the content of your essays or on the degree of self-disclosure but only on the quality of your writing. Please note that this will be an emotionally charged course, and there may be times when some of us cry in class. How can one not cry when confronting the loss of a loved one? Tears indicate that we are responding emotionally as well as intellectually to loss; tears are usually a more accurate reflection of how we feel than words. The only requirement for the course is empathy: the ability to listen respectfully and nonjudgmentally to your classmates’ writings. The class will not be a “support group,” but we will be supportive of each other’s writing. Our aim is to write about the most important people in our lives while at the same time improving the quality of our writing.

Both the talking cure and the writing cure enable students to express their feelings in a safe, empathic classroom and to learn about their classmates’ experiences. Writing about one’s most overwhelming experiences can give order and meaning to otherwise unmanageable feelings. “How do I know what I think,” the novelist E. M. Forster asks in Aspects of the Novel, “till I see what I say?” (1927, 97). Although Forster’s insight is more about discovering thoughts than feelings, the two are inseparable. Emotions need to be understood, as the philosopher Martha Nussbaum has pointed out, as “geological upheavals of thought” (2001, 90). Since Barbara’s death, I have written several books that focus on love and loss, including Dying to Teach (2007), Death in the Classroom (2009), Companionship in Grief (2010), Dying in Character (2012), Death Education in the Writing Classroom (2012), and Writing Widowhood (2015).

I found it not at all depressing to write these books, and others have told me that it is not depressing to read them. Writing has always been my lifeline to vitality, as it has been for many others. Writing enables us to acknowledge both positive and negative emotions, to process what we are thinking and feeling, to make connections between conscious and unconscious experience, and, perhaps most importantly, to remember. Barbara has now been gone for nearly twenty years, and my life with her often seems shadowy and unreal, almost as if it never existed. But when I re-read my memoir about her, she once again springs vividly to life.

Writing has also been therapeutic for many of my students. Several years ago, “Michael,” a member of the Honors College, took a writing course with me. He enjoyed it, and decided to take another writing course with me the following semester. Two weeks before the beginning of that semester, his brother drowned in a boating accident. When Michael told me about this tragedy, I suggested he could write about the impact of his brother’s death on himself and his family. Though he was a private person, he did so and shared his writings with myself and with his classmates; we were all deeply moved. After Michael’s graduation, his parents graciously made a donation to the English department in my name, large enough to endow an annual prize for the best essay related to grief and mental health by an English major.

I’ve often been invited to speak about my approach to writing pedagogy, and the most frequent question I get from other teachers is: Don’t you feel burdened by students’ problems? My answer is always the same: No! Students rarely ask me for advice about how to live their lives. When they do, I tell them how I have responded to similar situations. If a student asks me, for example, how long her grief at the loss of a beloved relative or friend will last, I often speak about the illusion of “closure.” Unlike Freud, who stated in his 1917 essay “Mourning and Melancholia” that the living must “decathect” from the dead, divesting oneself of libidinal attachment to the dead so that it can be re-invested in some other person, I believe that attachment endures, without necessarily leading to what Freud calls “melancholia.” Klass, Silverman, and Nickman have described the “continuing bonds” through which “survivors hold the deceased in loving memory for long periods, often forever” (1996, 349). This certainly resonates with me: Barbara remains a central part of my life, even though I remarried twelve years ago and cherish the joy that Julie has brought back into my life.

As a near-octogenarian, I’ve lost many dear relatives, friends, and colleagues. But I try to keep their memories alive not only by thinking about them but also by writing about them. Regardless of whether one believes in an afterlife, “ghosts” do surround us, and we can live successfully with these ghosts in our professional and personal lives.

I believe that this post-Freudian attitude toward grief is one reason why students are so enthusiastic about the course “Love and Loss,” which affirms recovery and resilience. I never force students to write about a painful topic; they always have the option to write about a less intense subject. Only rarely do I suggest, tactfully, that a student might visit the Counseling Center for help. Writing about such experiences almost always promotes wellbeing, as Freud himself concedes. According to Joan Riviere, he once exclaimed to her: “Write it, write it, put it down in black and white; that’s the way to deal with it; you get it out of your system” (1958, 146). My only qualification is that writing does not get loss out of one’s system; rather, writing allows one to live with loss, demonstrating that psychoanalytically informed teaching methods aren’t “impossible” at all.


Works cited

Berman, Jeffrey. 1994. Diaries to an English Professor: Pain and Growth in the Classroom. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

—. 1999. Surviving Literary Suicide. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

—. 2001. Risky Writing: Self-Disclosure and Self-Transformation in the Classroom. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

—. 2007. Dying to Teach: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Learning. Albany: SUNY Press.

—. 2009. Death in the Classroom: Writing About Love and Loss. Albany: SUNY Press.

—. 2010. Companionship in Grief: Love and Loss in the Memoirs of C.S. Lewis, John Bayley, Donald Hall, Joan Didion, and Calvin Trillin. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

—. 2012a. Dying in Character: Memoirs on the End of Life. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

—. 2012b. Death Education in the Writing Classroom. New York: Routledge.

—. 2015. Writing Widowhood: The Landscapes of Bereavement. Albany: SUNY Press.

Forster, E. M. 1927. Aspects of the Novel. London: Edward Arnold.

Freud, Sigmund. 1953. The Interpretation of Dreams [1900]. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Tr.  James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, vols. 5-6.

—. 1957. “Mourning and Melancholia [1917].” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Tr. James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, 14: 237-58.

—. 1964. “Analysis Terminable and Interminable [1937].” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Tr. James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, 23: 209-53.

Klass, Dennis, Phyllis R. Silverman, and Steven Nickman, ed. 1996. Continuing Bonds: New Understandings of Grief. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Nussbaum, Martha. 2001. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Riviere, Joan. 1958. “A Character Trait of Freud’s.” In Psycho-Analysis and Contemporary Thought. Ed. John D. Sutherland. London: Hogarth Press, 145-49.

Winnicott, D. W. 1965. The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development. London: Hogarth Press.

Smuggling Psychoanalysis into Psychology: Teaching Psychoanalytic Theory to Undergraduates in Lithuania

by Greta Kaluževičiūtė-Moreton

In the autumn of 2021, after graduating with a Ph.D. in Psychoanalytic Studies from the University of Essex and completing my post–doc at the University of Cambridge, I made the decision to return to my native country, Lithuania. Since then, I’ve been working at the historic Vilnius University as an Associate Professor in the Institute of Psychology. This transition significantly influenced my academic perspective: unlike comparable programs in the U.K. and the U.S., the Institute of Psychology is quite sizeable, encompassing various branches of and perspectives on psychology and psychoanalysis. While there are significant traces of Jungian psychoanalysis in the work of Lithuanian scholars and psychology students, Freud is placed somewhat confusingly in the psychology curriculum. This means that Freudian psychoanalysis is perceived more as part of the historical background than as a set of ideas for use in understanding the contemporary psyche.

This is mostly a consequence of the split between research and practice: psychoanalytic clinicians tend not to remain in the academic sphere. Freud’s ambiguous status is also an historical consequence of the years of Soviet occupation, during which psychoanalytic education was suppressed for ideological reasons. Psychoanalysis—and, indeed, much of psychology—had to negotiate a regime directly opposed to the capacity for individual self-reflection (Rasickaite 2022).

Thus, many of the pivotal psychoanalytic thinkers in U.S. and U.K. programs—including Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott, whose work I regularly taught at Essex—tended to be excluded from the undergraduate psychology curriculum. Even now, object relational, relational, and self-psychological theories tend to be relegated to postgraduate courses that focus on clinical training rather than scholarly research.

The ambiguous place of psychoanalysis in the undergraduate psychology curriculum is certainly not unique to Lithuania. Over the past several decades, the emphasis on social and cognitive psychology in European and American universities has grown as well, while psychoanalytic theories of subjectivity have been minimized or entirely omitted (Yakushko and Hook 2017).

Nevertheless, based on my experience discussing key psychoanalytic concepts with undergraduates in several different countries, I knew that these concepts remained of great interest to undergraduates in many fields of study. Indeed, at Vilnius my students seem far less resistant to psychoanalytic instruction than their U.K. counterparts—perhaps because of the institutional integration of psychology and psychoanalysis. Unlike the exclusively psychoanalytic undergraduate programs in the U.K., the program at Vilnius seeks to expose students to a much wider variety of psychological and psychoanalytic schools of thought.

Yet a certain degree of skepticism and ambiguity continued to characterize the reception of psychoanalysis in Lithuanian education, chiefly as a consequence of the country’s history of periods of Soviet (1940–1941 and 1944–1990) and Nazi (1941-1944) occupation and oppression, during which psychoanalysis was suppressed as a pseudo–science potentially threatening to the collectivist and fascist ideologies, with its emphasis, as Frank Brenner points out, on individual worth, intimacy, resistance, and the capacity for self–reflection.

Lithuanian historian Tomas Vaiseta (2016) argues that Soviet psychology was primarily based on a Soviet political–medical model that lacked genuine interest in the interior lives of individuals and that focused instead on unifying political agendas. Dissidents, deviants, and rebels—including, of course, academics—were deemed to be of “unsound mind”—in other words, politically inconvenient and even dangerous. The term “psychoanalysis” itself was banned for decades, as if the mere suggestion of contemplating one’s inner life might encourage rebellion against the regime (Angelini 2008).

Yet like a repressed memory, psychoanalysis managed to find its way back into Lithuanian higher education. In the 1970s, doctoral students at Vilnius University were encouraged to study Freud’s theories, which were translated from into Lithuanian by psychiatrist and neurologist Juozas Blažys. In the 1980s and 90s, psychoanalytic associations and centres were established across the country, to serve various populations (Milašiūnas 2004), but they remained limited in number due to ongoing political and ideological opposition. Ultimately, the resurgence of psychoanalysis as a clinical model significantly influenced the undergraduate curriculum, as the close relationship between education and practice in Lithuania allowed for the teaching of psychoanalytic principles even in introductory psychology courses, as well as in more advanced clinical courses. This is still the case at Vilnius University. However, as a psychoanalytic academic, it seems to me that much of the psychoanalytic knowledge in the undergraduate program remains compromised in various ways.

When I joined the Institute of Psychology at Vilnius University, I was given the option to revive a disused module titled “Creativity of Psychology,” and I was given a blank slate to work with. Historically, creativity has been a difficult concept to study, research, and measure in clinical psychology, as it spans dozens of different disciplines and methodologies. From John R. Hayes’ focus on the development of unique works, to Frank Barron’s problem–solving, to Raymond B. Catell’s heightened sensitivity, I felt that psychoanalysis might have a place in this module, but it was unclear what that place would be. I proposed, alongside the traditional psychological authors and theories, to teach more psychoanalytic material as well.

For example, there is the rich creativity of Freud’s own thinking and writing. Creativity and play are also heavily emphasized in Winnicott’s work, particularly in relation to anxious and deprived children. Winnicott’s “squiggle” game became my students’ favourite activity; after all, they could certainly relate to the struggle to verbalize their experiences, and many of them had few other opportunities to express themselves through play in their lives as young adults. Winnicott’s departure from “heavier” psychoanalytic theorizing about repressed memories, trauma, difficult early relationships with caregivers, and the anxieties of psychosexual development has perhaps also helped make his work particularly refreshing for undergraduate students—helping them to see psychological struggle as a form of communication and a source of creativity rather than merely a set of pathologies.

I thought that students would also benefit from learning about how instrumental creativity and play can be in the therapeutic process and the therapeutic relationship, including in cases of  trauma, post–traumatic growth, resilience, and sublimation. Teaching in the post–pandemic era as well as during the war waged by Russia in Ukraine made discussions of intergenerational trauma and the abundance of pain necessary—as was discussion of the creative processes to which the treatment of such afflications can lead. It was a teaching experience that I knew would have been starkly different in any Western institution, and as an academic I, too, appreciated the opportunity to stumble, in a playfully Winicottian sense, in my teaching technique and to rely more than usual on the intuitions and emotions I experienced in response to the distressing events in our sister country. After all, Lithuania, the Baltic countries, and much of Eastern Europe are once again witnessing a deep historical wound, comparable to our experience of earlier such wounds in our own lands. The unity, unfortunately created by this collective trauma, permeates day-to-day life, as well as clinical practice and the overall academic environment.

While teaching this new module, I felt a bit like a smuggler: I was smuggling psychoanalysis into a psychology module on creativity. Indeed, given the marginalized status of psychoanalysis in higher education generally, I often reflect on the act of “smuggling in psychoanalysis” as a way to preserve and transmit knowledge that might otherwise be lost or taught only superficially as a relic of the history of psychology. In fact, one might say that my university and country have a history intertwined with meaningful forms of smuggling. For instance, in an attempt to oppose Russian authorities’ efforts to replace the Lithuanian language with Russian, book smugglers or book carriers illegally transported Lithuanian books from as far away as the United States, to secretly teach children and resist Russification. Given today’s events, it feels apt now to smuggle psychoanalysis, as a discipline that was once deemed subversive by the Soviet apparatus—indeed, to help make it a discourse for understanding the current, incalculable levels of aggression on display, as well as our own reactions to it. In other words, psychoanalytic knowledge is both a reminder of our history and a coping strategy for the present.

As a discipline and academic community that places the study of resistance at its heart, psychoanalysis, too, has had its fair share of obstacles (both encountered and projected) to overcome—including opposition from psychology departments and training institutes. Smuggling in psychoanalysis continues to be a way of cultivating a more direct dialogue and collaboration with other disciplines and theories, creating opportunities to reintroduce our discipline into the broader curriculum and to allow psychoanalytically oriented academics to advocate for closer ties between theory and practice—something that students often identify as the “missing experience” in their psychology programs.


Works cited

Angelini, Alberto. 2008. “History of the Unconscious in Soviet Russia: From its Origins to the Fall of the Soviet Union.” The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 89.2: 369–388.

Milašiūnas, Raimundas. 2004. Psichoanalizė: 100 klausimų ir atsakymų [Psychoanalysis: 100 questions and answers]. Tyto Alba: Vilnius.

Rasickaite, Igne. 2022. “The Fate of Psychology in Lithuanian Higher Education Institutions during World War II.” Lietuvos istorijos studijos 50: 110-129.

Vaiseta, Tomas. 2016. “Defining Model of Psychiatry in Soviet Lithuania: The Case of One Hospital.” Lietuvos katalikų mokslo akademijos metraštis 39: 151–172.

Yakushko, Oksana and Derek Hook. 2017. “Whatever Happened to the Human Experience in Undergraduate Psychology? Comment on the Special Issue on Undergraduate Education in Psychology. American Psychologist 72.2: 173–175.

Reminder: APsA Student Externship application deadline is coming up soon!


Applications are now being accepted for student externships to the American Psychoanalytic Association’s 2024 Annual Meeting, at the Hilton Midtown in New York City, February 6-11, 2024.

 Eligibility: College Juniors and Seniors (not limited to any major or minor) and Graduate Students (in any field) with an interest in psychoanalysis.

 This externship provides a unique opportunity to discover the world of psychoanalysis in all its aspects: as a theory of mind, as a method of interpretation across the disciplines, and as a clinical practice. 8-10 students will be chosen to attend the Annual Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, February 6-11, 2024, at the Hilton Midtown in New York City. Registration fees and hotel rooms will be covered for all externship winners, who will also receive  stipends for transportation, food, and extern-mentor events.

Students will be able to attend all parts of the scientific program, such as plenary presentations, featured panels, and smaller discussion groups and workshops on an extraordinary array of topics including gender and sexuality, addictions, child and adolescent analysis, ethics, psychoanalysis in the social sciences and humanities, research and empirical studies, etc. Students will also be assigned mentors to assist in registration and to serve as guides during the meetings.

Application requirements:

    1. Current resume
    2. Unofficial Transcript
    3. One academic recommendation
    4. A 2-page essay responding to the question: “How do you imagine psychoanalysis might impact your field of study?” (maximum 750 words)

Application deadline: November 11, 2023. Include all four required elements in a single email to be sent to Dr. Susan Donner at

 Questions? Ask Dr. Susan Donner at

 For more on the externship experience, read program alumna Esha Bhandari’s blog post, “Child’s Play at APsaA: Discovering Psychoanalytic Play Therapy,” linked here:

Reminder: APsA Undergraduate Essay Prize deadline fast approaching!

To be eligible, papers must have been written within the past year, either in an undergraduate course or independently under an instructor’s supervision, at a college or university within the United States.  Papers must be 12 to 20 pages long and must not have been published (or submitted for publication) elsewhere.

For more information:

And good luck to all the applicants! 

Remember, too (or, if you’re an instructor, please alert your students), that here at Psyche on Campus we’re always eager to hear from undergraduates studying psychoanalysis–anywhere where in the world!–who have a good pitch for a blog-post.  Simply email your pitch (or a completed post of approximately 800-1200 words) to to be considered for possible publication!

Loneliness and Belonging in College Mental Health

by Spencer Biel and Katie Lewis

In December 2021, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared a youth mental health crisis associated with the coronavirus pandemic, pernicious effects of social media on self-esteem, and sluggish progress on issues like racial justice, climate change, and income inequality. More recently, he stated:

Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an underappreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight—one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2023)

These sobering advisories have special application to college students, whose developmental tasks include transitioning from being a child in a family to an adult in the world. This process involves forming meaningful relationships, trusting in social structures, and cultivating community belonging. However, many students feel isolated, overwhelmed, and unsure whether the adult world is even worth joining. In this post, we consider emerging-adult loneliness through the lens of attachment theory. For those with histories of early adversity, trauma, and disrupted attachment, we propose that a psychodynamic systems approach can be especially helpful to address underlying drivers of loneliness and isolation and enhance belonging.

Loneliness is unavoidable. However, for people who have enjoyed safe, secure formative relationships, it tends to be bearable and temporary. In part, this is because when they are alone and stressed, they can call to mind experiences of being soothed by caring others. Further, loneliness signals a need for connection, and people who are optimistic about receiving help are more likely to reach out and to embrace what is offered.

In contrast, consider the experiences of Sophia, Brian, and Janice.[1]  Sophia is a college freshman who excels academically, leads several clubs, and rarely spends time alone. For Sophia and others like her, merely being in the presence of others isn’t enough to increase her capacity to build trust, express vulnerability, and invest in others emotionally. She feels both drained by her social performance and invisible, but the prospect of facing and sharing herself more fully and unguardedly fills her with dread. Brian, a sophomore, digitally cocoons himself in his dorm room and uses marijuana to mask his feelings. Janice, another sophomore, describes annihilating internal emptiness that she expresses through self-destructive behavior. Brian and Janice both feel horribly alone, but they worry that responding to friendly overtures will leave them open to exploitation.

To address the complex and debilitating loneliness experienced by such students, it’s essential to help them work through their mistrust, and this takes time, trained attention, and skillful coordination of dyadic and social learning. Implementing this sort of treatment on college and university campuses is a serious challenge, given resource limitations, pressure to provide short-term care, and overall strain on clinicians. However, through strategic partnership, it’s feasible. In November 2021, Austen Riggs Center launched a remote access Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for college students.[2]  In collaboration with on-campus counseling centers, we provide accessible, affordable, outstanding clinical care to students who require more than brief therapy, peer wellness support, skills-based approaches, or crisis stabilization. By working with insurers and delivering treatment remotely, we keep costs down (roughly 70% of the students who have participated in our program are on financial aid at their schools) while increasing access to care.

Our psychodynamic systems approach uses a reflective, integrative treatment model to grasp, bear, and put into perspective what patients struggle unsuccessfully to manage internally and in their relationships. The depth of engagement in twice weekly psychotherapy, typically over several months, helps patients address the mistrust, wariness, and dissociation they developed as protective measures in environments riddled with chaos, impingement, or other obstacles to trustworthy relationships. One patient described her experience as follows: “Getting to the root of problems was really important. It helped me feel validation in my struggles.” Another patient said: “How I interact with my emotions has really shifted. I am still an extreme person and that has not changed. But I do not have the same pain and suffering around those reactions. It’s also how I now interact with others and allow others to help.”

The intensity of individual psychotherapy is balanced by peer support and enhanced by social learning. Coordinated interpersonal environments (intensive therapy, medication management, process group, yoga and meditation, and coping-skills group) illuminate ways an individual’s expectations of others interact with social pressures, constraints, and opportunities. A former patient explained: “Being in groups helped me learn more about my own emotions…and not react the same way as before when I get emotional.” She went on to say: “It also helped me see some issues that I was having or have had in the past from a different perspective. It helped me feel less alone.”

Thanks to this more sustained and multidimensional approach, Sophia discovered that her exaggerated caretaking role in groups, which kept her invisible, had roots in her early experience of having a sibling with medical needs that demanded and often overwhelmed parental resources. She understandably harbored resentment, which in turn induced guilt that was channeled through damaging self-sacrifice. Sophia’s peers let her know that her constant busyness and visible exhaustion made them feel unable to reach her, which Sophia could now connect with memories of how she had experienced her beleaguered parents in childhood. This kind of supportive learning, facilitated by staff and peers, can create space to experiment with new ways of relating that can later be applied back at college.

We hope that Riggs’ partnership with colleges and universities can serve as a model for expanding services to under-resourced students while ensuring that treatment is of the highest quality and tailored to specific needs. The grim alternative these days is the proliferation of profit driven, time-limited individual services that, at their very best, offer convenience, a sympathetic ear, and rote coping skills—with little lasting efficacy. To address the epidemic of loneliness, individual suffering must be engaged within relevant social contexts rather than insulated within perhaps more immediately comfortable but ultimately more isolating “self-care.”



[1] In the interest of privacy, pseudonymous composite cases are used to illustrate a range of experiences we have heard from patients.

[2] The Riggs IOP is currently providing treatment to college students and emerging adults in Massachusetts and New York.


Work Cited

Office of the Surgeon General. 2023. Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC, May 2023.

Teaching Psychoanalysis in an Era of Empiricist Psychology: Notes from Cape Town

by Francois Rabie

My love affair with all things psychoanalytic began in my final undergraduate year at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. A module (roughly equivalent to a semester-long course) introducing us to clinical psychology and psychopathology drew strongly on psychoanalysis, and I was hooked. It made intuitive sense. Up until then much of my undergraduate psychology degree had consisted in learning how to design positivistic research methodologies and to deploy statistics in that endeavor. I’ve got nothing against structured observation and factor analysis. But something about the theory and practice of psychoanalysis struck me as intellectually and emotionally compelling—rich with possibilities in ways that psychology was not. In part, perhaps, because I was a humanities major, I was more strongly drawn to psychoanalysis as a way of studying human consciousness and subjectivity.

Twenty-five years later, I’m a clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist—not just thinking about psychoanalytic concepts, but also fully experiencing their meaningfulness to the human condition in my intersubjective encounters with patients. Along the way, my own personal journey as an analysand helped me to apprehend the unconscious in rich, frightening, and liberating ways. Being a psychoanalytic clinician allows me to continue to explore and integrate the theory I’ve studied, the experience of my personal analysis, and, of course, daily encounters with my patients. Among the many satisfactions I derive from this way of life are a more profound personal experience of the oceanic unconscious and a deeply emotional sense of my own developmental journey. At the same time, I continue to refine my technique in the best analytic interests of my patients.

I’ve also continued to work in the academic domain. As a graduate student and, later, as a clinician, I’ve taught psychoanalytic theory at both the undergraduate and post-graduate levels at various universities in South Africa, where—as in the U.S.—the lamentable rejection of psychoanalysis tout court by academic departments of psychology persists, leaving little room for psychoanalytic education.

Rather than debate what constitutes “empirical data” or whether phenomena like transference are “real,” I want briefly to share my thoughts on both the joys and hardships of conveying to students something about psychoanalysis that might inspire them to become more curious about aspects of their lived experience that lie outside the strictly empirical domain. Often, undergraduates begin studying psychology without realizing that they will learn more about statistics than about the human condition, whereas psychoanalysis is the study of the human condition.

As a lecturer in both psychoanalytic theory and clinical psychoanalysis, I’ve faced the perennially challenging questions: How best to teach psychoanalysis? and, Where to begin?

I still think it’s best to begin with Freud. But which Freud? As I see it, the revision of Freudian drive theory by neuropsychoanalysts like Mark Solms significantly enhances our understanding of the nature and function of drive-like mechanisms. We know that Freud began his career as a neurologist and always believed in the neurological underpinnings of psychoanalytic concepts. Solms and others have helped realize Freud’s post-Cartesian vision by offering scientific proof of some of Freud’s most radical insights. This Freud—the Freud I share with my students—is no mere historical figure, but (as ever) a bold thinker for today’s world. I want my students to understand that psychoanalysis has always been about challenging the status quo and about using well-honed techniques of observation, both in the consulting room and, increasingly, in the neuroscientific laboratory.

But if this is the Freud one wants to teach, where can one teach him? Most departments of psychology treat the field either as anathema or, at best, a quaint historical relic. Currently, departments of anthropology, cinema, cultural studies, and literature are the most hospitable environments. But university psychology departments and psychoanalytic institutes need to find ways of entering into constructive and creative dialogue about reforming the psychology curriculum. At the same time, psychoanalytic thinkers need to be more receptive to the best work in other branches of psychology. Ideally, theorists and clinicians from both psychology and psychoanalysis should combine forces and establish dedicated shared spaces at their respective universities. Such spaces could, for example, take the form of monthly psychoanalytic seminars or reading groups, which could facilitate collaborative thinking and serve as crucibles for the development of more formal, credit-bearing modules in psychoanalytic studies.

The obvious rifts between academic psychologists, on one hand, and those few remaining clinical psychologists who teach psychoanalysis within psychology departments, on the other, can be especially bewildering and frustrating for students. They see the eye-rolls of their statistics lecturers and hear the dismissive tones of those devoted to cognitive approaches, whenever psychoanalysis is mentioned.

Many students brought these sorts of experiences with them to my large lecture course on “Personality Psychology,” which I taught in the Department of Psychology at a major South African university. Even though this particular psychology department mandates teaching “some” psychoanalysis, it helps tremendously when, say, the departmental chair is also committed to psychoanalysis, which was the case when I taught there. Still, the anti-psychoanalytic attitudes that students have imbibed continue to generate certain forms of anxiety and defensiveness in me. I know that much of what I say will be met with the same dismissive skepticism they’ve had drilled into them in their (implicitly or explicitly) anti-psychoanalytic psychology courses. It actually helped all of us to speak about these forms of dismissiveness to my class during the orientation lecture and to encourage conversations about the persistent tensions between psychology and psychoanalysis.

For the most part, I’ve found that students quickly overcome this knee-jerk skepticism and are eager to learn about psychoanalytic theory and practice. Indeed, psychoanalysis tends to make psychology “come alive” for many of them, enhancing their curiosity about the workings of the mind. I share anonymized examples from my own clinical practice to help students see even more clearly how unconscious dynamics work.

I’ve also found that literature and film can play a crucial role in enriching students’ understanding of psychoanalytic concepts. For example, I’ve assigned A. S. Byatt’s short story “The Thing in the Forest” as a context for exploring Kleinian psychoanalysis and object relations. The 1977 film Equus, based on Peter Shaffer’s play, has also been a rich source of psychoanalytic insights. Students enjoy such works, and their curiosity about their “meaning” ultimately help them to understand the origins and motivations of that very curiosity in psychodynamic terms.

Notwithstanding these successes, I rarely have more than three weeks in each thirteen-week module to cover psychoanalytic material, as students still must be introduced to theories of personality from psychometric, systemic, and post-modern perspectives as well. This limit makes decisions about what to cover and how all the more challenging. Do I want to give students a sense of the experience of psychoanalysis—a taste of the affective “flavor” of what goes on in the consulting room? Should I seek to help them achieve some form of emotional insight that would be relevant to their own lives and the social world they inhabit? Is it most important for them to understand fundamental concepts, such as the oedipal scenario, even if that means ignoring the subjective dimensions of their own filial anxieties and phallic strivings?

Even in the short time allotted, I try to give them an experience-near education in the fundamentals of psychoanalysis. I also want some of them, at least, to consider possible careers as psychoanalytic psychotherapists or psychoanalysts. Above all, I want psychoanalytic concepts to resonate with them in both intellectually and emotionally meaningful ways.

It’s neither arrogant nor parochial to urge that more time be allotted to psychoanalytic concepts in the psychology curriculum, as they still constitute our most powerful model of human subjectivity. Of course, different psychoanalytic theories give us different roads to follow. But the terrain is always that of the unconscious, and the journey is always intersubjective. Most contemporary psychology departments don’t even provide a copy of the map.

In the end, some of my students do come away with developmentally helpful insights into the workings of their own young selves: their experience of maturation, their relationships with others, their place in the world. That other students remain skeptical is no cause for disappointment, cynicism, or despair. To demand conformation to psychoanalytic thinking would be to undermine the very ethos of psychoanalysis. Also, the tensions between academic psychology and psychoanalysis won’t be resolved anytime soon—they might even prove to be productive (as many disciplinary tensions do), especially now that neuropsychoanalysis is empirically confirming so much of what psychoanalysts have been observing and theorizing for well over a century.

According to psychoanalyst Neville Symington, “psychoanalysis is an experience that occurs between two people. It is a deep experience and can only be very inadequately communicated to another person…The theories within psychoanalytic discourse have as much relation to psychoanalysis as a manual of sexual techniques has to the emotion of being in love” (1986, 9). He goes on to suggest that “psychoanalysis cannot be taught. I can tell you about Freud, I can tell you about the topographical model of the mind, but you will not be an inch nearer knowing what psychoanalysis is, for it is a phenomenon which occurs at the centre of the individual” (1986, 15).

However, as I see it, potentially productive tensions exist not only between departments of psychology and scattered courses and programs in psychoanalytic studies, but also within psychoanalytic pedagogy. Symington forces the question: How do you teach such a subjective form of experience? At the undergraduate level, for example, psychoanalytic theories informed by postmodernist thought contrast sharply with more traditional or “classical” theories. (One approach I’ve developed is to teach Freud as a post-modern thinker himself!) At the graduate level, these differences become even more challenging, as future practitioners face a wide range of clinical models and styles. Just as psychoanalysis and psychology can feel light years apart, psychoanalytic thinkers and practitioners can also hold antagonistic views on matters of both theory and technique.

As teachers, we’ll have to continue to help our students navigate unresolved tensions between theories and concepts, while also—at least indirectly, and even unconsciously—conveying to them something of the affectively charged, interpersonal atmosphere of the analytic consulting room. This atmosphere is saturated with meanings that might be said to approach the condition of truth. Symington, for instance, says that psychoanalysis does not “have” the truth, but that it is able to repair and enhance our ability to seek the truth of our experience. As insights emerge, meaning takes shape and can even be the basis for new epistemologies.

To a significant extent, clinical psychoanalysis is about the re-integration of fragmented selves. We seek to help our patients experience an expanded affective range and to weaken the archaic defense mechanisms that interfere with healthy adaptation and restrict creative growth. And even in an undergraduate lecture hall, with hundreds of students, we can help each one of them apprehend something of the atmosphere of the consulting room and the ways in which theories give way to interpersonal practices—to mutually informing, though asymmetrical, experiences of the dynamic unconscious and new forms of self-encounter.

Work cited

Symington, Neville. 1986. The Analytic Experience: Lectures from the Tavistock. New York: St. Martins.

Building an Undergraduate Psychoanalytic Studies Program

An Interview with Professor Marcia D-S. Dobson of Colorado College

In this interview, Professor Marcia D-S. Dobson discusses with the editor of Psyche on Campus some illuminating personal and professional details related to the creation of an undergraduate Minor in Psychoanalysis: Theories of the Unconscious at Colorado College in 2003.

PoC: Marcia, could you first tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to create a program in Psychoanalytic Studies at Colorado College?

MD: Absolutely. It was after I’d received my second PhD in 1998—my thesis was called “Varieties of Transitional Experience in Psychoanalysis and Ancient Greek Thought”—that I started to feel a strong desire to initiate a psychoanalysis program at Colorado College. For one thing, I wanted to give to our students a taste of what I’d received as trainee at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA. I was accepted into this program as a scholar in Classics (the field of my first PhD) working in ancient Greek drama, religion, philosophy and, of course, the ancient Greek language itself.

PoC: That’s very Freudian, isn’t it? We know Freud himself was an avid student of antiquity and a compulsive collector of artifacts from the ancient world—not only from ancient Greece and Rome but also Etruria, Egypt, China, and India as well. But what prompted you to earn a second doctorate?

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Reading Closely with Lacan in the Undergraduate Classroom

by Ian Williams Curtis

In The Pleasure of the Text (1973), Roland Barthes famously celebrated the embodiment of the reader. We not only interpret what we read, we also experience what we read in emotional and even visceral ways. As in the psychoanalytic consulting room, so too in the literature classroom, it is often the affect that accompanies interpretation that leads to insight. As teachers of literature, we have the opportunity to invite our students to recognize and reflect upon their affective and physiological responses, as well as their intellectual and contemplative experiences of reading.

I recently sought to test this proposition with a dozen or so exceptionally thoughtful and curious undergraduate students in my upper-level French literature class (conducted entirely in French) at Kenyon College. We were reading  J. M. G. Le Clézio’s short story, “La Ronde” (1982), in which two adolescent girls respond to a dare. The girls, Martine and Titi, set off on mopeds through an unspecified French city. For the most part, the narrator sticks close to Martine’s point of view, describing her thoughts, emotions, and sensations as she trails behind her friend. Yet, as the girls race through the streets, the narrative focus occasionally shifts away from Martine to a sunburnt woman with a black handbag waiting for a bus and also to a blue moving van that speeds along menacingly. In the end, these three focal points converge: Martine races past the lady at the bus stop, snatching her handbag, and, as Titi escapes on her moped, the blue moving van collides with Martine as she flees the scene of the crime.

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How Far Would You Go?

by Leonardo Niro

In 2015, my department at the University of Essex launched its BA program in Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, the only undergraduate degree of its kind in the UK, and one of only a handful of courses in Europe to be focused on psychoanalysis. I spent a number of years spearheading the program: from curricular design to directing the program in its initial years. Ultimately, I believe the BA has proven highly successful, as evidenced by student enrollment, student satisfaction, and employability after completion.

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