The public role of psychoanalysts in the Trump era: ‘We live in ominous times’

In our highly politicized times, how can psychoanalysts contribute to the national discourse in ways that are both ethical and effective?

Prominent practitioners recently addressed this question and the implications of commenting on public figures — most notably President Trump — at the American Psychoanalytic Association’s (APsaA) 2018 national meeting. Their open-ended discussion last week encouraged psychoanalysts and their organizations to take an active role in contemporary political matters.

“How do we get psychoanalysts to have an impact on society in a way beyond the day-to-day work with patients and help the public understand a range of psychological phenomena, not just the behavior and psychology of a president, but of those who support him?” Kerry J. Sulkowicz, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, told Yahoo News. “I think mental health professionals certainly have something to contribute.”

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Not your great-grandfather’s psychoanalysis

By Amy Novotney

December 2017, Vol 48, No. 11,

Psychologists have modernized the approach to better serve patients and have conducted more research that validates its success

At age 7, Pratyusha Tummala-Narra emigrated from India to the United States with her family, leaving behind a country rife with political tensions. Her struggles to adjust to life as a racial and ethnic minority led her to pursue a PhD in psychology from Michigan State University. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a clinician, integrating psychoanalytic, multicultural and feminist perspectives into her practice, which focuses on helping immigrant and ethnic-minority clients deal with acculturation, discrimination and trauma. Her work draws on the ideas of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, to explore how her clients’ thoughts and feelings that may lie outside awareness affect their social, cultural and political experiences.

As controversial as Freud may be, people often forget that he and his colleagues opened free clinics throughout Europe so that people of any class could have access to psychotherapy, says Tummala-Narra, who is also a professor of counseling, developmental and educational psychology at Boston College.

“When psychoanalysis came to the United States in the early 1900s, it developed into a form of treatment that seemed to only be accessible to the middle and upper-middle classes, which was never Freud’s intention,” she says. “He viewed psychodynamic therapy as a universal treatment for all people.”

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Testimonials from our 2017 Annual Conference

“It was a truly wonderful conference. Dr. Ahktar was fantastic. I learned so much and it has already expanded how I understand my patients. I look forward to future events from ACAP.”

Stella Jang


“Dr. Bratt, it seems only right, after speaking about gratitude, that I express thanks to you and the conference committee for an amazing weekend of learning and growth. I am honored to have been part of the conference program. So many intellectual and emotional experiences in such a brief amount of time — it’s quite amazing and deeply satisfying. Thank you for bringing Dr. Akhtar to lead this experience.”

Nancy Gerber


Good Stuff: Generosity, Courage, Gratitude, Forgiveness
A weekend with Salman Akhtar. M.D

Saturday, June 10- Sunday, June 11, 2017, at  Caldwell University, Caldwell, NJ

Join us for all or part of BGSP-NJ and ACAP’s two days with the remarkable Salman Akhtar, MD. Innovative ideas, intervention strategies, exploring unconscious motives, earn CE hours, connect, experience diverse therapeutic models, 20 workshops to choose from…just some of what pulls people to return to the BGSP-NJ/ACAP summer conferences.

(Earn up to 18 CE hours)

Choose from 20 Workshops,
Five sessions with Salman Akhtar –

including the Saturday evening discussion: 

The Immigrant Experience – as an immigrant clinician and as an immigrant patient

followed by a delicious and fun dinner together!


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Helping Your Child To Know Herself

Please join us tonight! –  March 10, 2017, 7-10pm at ACAP

Our children, whether they are 2 or 72, push thoughts and feelings out of consciousness all the time.  When they lose self-awareness, they don’t perform to their potential, they act surly and mean, they frustrate us with seemingly lazy or unproductive behavior and amaze us with poor choices. In this workshop, you will learn how to identify three different levels of unconscious activity, and which words work best for each level to help your child become more self-aware.

Presenter: Dr. Claudia Sheftel-Luiz, Ed.M

To register all 973-629-1002 or email

Please join us for: A Tweet in Time: The Media and Your Mood”

February 26, 2017 at ACAP


2 CE Hours | ASWB and NBCC

To register call 973-629-1002 or email

There is a $15.00 processing fee for the certificate, $20 fee for the workshop.

It’s 3:00a.m. Do you post a response, Tweet your feelings about last night or the current political situation? Does it matter if people know you’re online in the middle of the night? It feels great to get it out there, and everyone looks so happy!

What do we search for in the digital universe? Evidence is mixed about the emotional effects of social media use. How do we identify when someone we care about, or work with, is suffering negative, media mood syndrome

Our panel describes ways in which social media may positively and/or negatively impact a user’s mood, from kids under the covers, to job-hunting, to looking for love, and to the therapeutic relationship.



Presenters: Patricia Bratt-Moderator, Nicholas Breza, Imke Oster, Mary Robinson

2016 NAAP Gradiva Award Winners

Congratulations to NAAP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis) 2016 Gradiva Award Winners:


“Psyche, Symbol and Trauma:

The Art of Lilli Gettinger (1920-1999)”

Curated by the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies



Kristine Mann: Jung’s “Miss X” and a Pioneer in Psychoanalysis



The Neuropsychology of the Unconscious: Integrating Brain and Mind in Psychotherapy

W. Norton & Company


The Economics of Libido:

Psychic Bisexuality, the Superego, and the Centrality of the Oedipus Complex

Karnac Books



The Legacy of Sandor Ferenczi: From Ghost to Ancestor




Vamik’s Room



A Tale of Two Twins

in the NYT psychotherapy series “Couch”

The 2016 NAAP Vision Award

The 2016 NAAP Vision Award

It is with great pleasure that the NAAP, National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, Board of Trustees announces that the 2016 Vision Award will be presented jointly to Stephen Soldz, PhD and Steven Reisner, PhD. This recognition by the professional community honors their decade long commitment and work fighting for social justice, representing psychoanalysts and psychologists as standard bearers for ethical practice, and putting their personal and professional lives at risk as a result. Their efforts resulted last year in the release of the Hoffman Report detailing psychologists’ involvement in torture and enhanced interrogations. Subsequently psychologists were prohibited from this type of participation as a breach of professional ethics.

NAAP’s VISION AWARD was conceived as a special award to be presented to a psychoanalyst or psychoanalysts who the Awards Committee and the NAAP Board of Trustees feel have made an outstanding contribution to psychoanalysis and its impact on the life of individuals and the community. It is presented to recipients at the awards banquet during NAAP’s annual conference. This year’s conference, “Masculinity and Manhood”, is being held at the New York Law School on Saturday, November 12th.

We are continually reminded by the media of the harsh reality of professional involvement in the deplorable tactics Soldz and Reisner have fought to bring into the open and ultimately curtail. A recent New York Times article, “How U.S. Torture Left a Legacy of Damaged Minds”*, highlighted the shameful repercussions of enhanced interrogations. NAAP stands with Drs. Soldz and Reisner in challenging mental health professionals to demonstrate ethical and socially responsible behavior. We are grateful that they keep us mindful and accountable for essential cultural and ethical values.

Stephen Soldz and Steven Reisner have spearheaded psychoanalytic research education, and development of many cross-professional programs that bring psychoanalysis into mainstream collaboration. They have provided great visibility about the commitment of psychoanalysts to ethical practice. The Committee believes Drs. Soldz and Reisner set a model for the kind of real world, social commitment by the profession NAAP encourages among psychoanalysts. We are grateful that they keep us mindful and accountable for our essential cultural and ethical values.

Learn more about these remarkable colleagues at our website, We invite you to join us, for all or part of the day, on 11/12, to honor these outstanding colleagues.



Narcissus is the archetype of self- love, a character in mythology unable to merge with another in a loving relationship. In a pool of water Narcissus sees his own reflection and falls in love with this reflection that he thinks is someone else. The narrator of the myth asks: “Why try to grip an image? He does not exist-the one you love and long for” (Ovid, trans.1993, 429-331).

The myth symbolically depicts an image so useful to modern psychoanalysts in their understanding of narcissism. Narcissus can’t tell the difference between “me” (ego) and “not me” (object). Speaking to a blurred reflection in the water, thinking another person is present, not realizing he is talking to himself, he is alone at the pool. If he were a patient we would describe him as alone in the room.

The concept of “one person alone in the room” is difficult to accept for therapists (Semel, 2004, p. 195). In session with a regressed, schizophrenic patient it is easier to see that he is talking to himself in response to voices in his mind that he believes are other people. A patient who arrives at the session on time, has a job, or speaks rationally appears to be functioning on a more advanced level. However when this patient lies on the couch, that patient functioning on an object level outside the room may regress to the level of “alone in the room.” He becomes Narcissus talking to himself, to the images in his mind. In this early stage of development the images of self (ego) and other (object) are confused, overlapped and merged (Spotnitz, 1985).

Phillips (2001) offers an explanation of how the patient in this narcissistic state may affect the analyst. The patient alone in the room may induce the analyst to speak at the wrong time. Sitting with a patient who never asks a question or who never answers one may make the analyst feel that the patient isn’t aware that the analyst even exists, arousing feelings of rejection or inadequacy in the analyst (a narcissistic injury). Instead of following the contact, the analyst may be tempted to talk so the patient will be aware of his presence (a narcissistic countertransference resistance). Perhaps Phillips clarifies why we resist seeing that the seemingly higher functioning patient may also be alone in the room. The analyst wants to be engaged in an emotional relationship but the patient on the couch returns to a narcissistic stage of life, where there are no “people,” only shadowy impressions of the images the mind has not yet separated into ego and object.

The patient is alone in the room. Narcissus is alone at the pool, speaking to the object/ego field reflected in the water. Like Narcissus, the narcissistic patient is talking to part of his mind.


Phillips, A. (2001). Narcissism, for and against. In One way and another: New and selected

            essays (pp.129-153). NY: Basic Books.

Semel, V. Understanding the fieldwork experience: How do we know when students “get it”

about narcissism? Modern Psychoanalysis, 9(2), 193-214.

Spotnitz, H. (1985). Modern psychoanalysis of the schizophrenic patient (2nd ed.). NY: Human

Sciences Press.

Teaching Vets to Treat Vets by Moe Freedman, ACAP Trustee

Morris Freedman, PhD, is a Past-President and current Member of ACAP’s Board of Trustees. He serves on the Fundraising Committee and has worked tirelessly to secure access to ACAP’s academic and training programs for military veterans.

Dr. Freedman speaks: By the time I returned from Okinawa in 1953, an armistice was in place ending the Korean War. I was happy to return to civilian life.  The joy of being home was diminished, however, by a feeling of disorientation and discomfort.  It took some time to feel more balanced among friends and family.  Those feelings were evident despite the fact that I had not actually been in active combat and I was probably experiencing normal reactions to a return to the routines of civilian life.  Consider how this disorientation would be compounded for combat veterans who witnessed horrific casualties and destruction.  Understandably, so many GI’s return tormented by their experiences and unable to adjust to family life and work. I am in retirement now, and a volunteer at a mental health resource center. I have discovered the efficacy of psychoanalytic treatment from case histories that have been discussed, and I have learned how people are prepared for careers in mental health.  I want veterans to know, not only how they can receive professional treatment, but to also consider becoming trained in treating other vets.

 Veterans who qualify for the benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and who have a bachelor’s degree are eligible to enroll in a graduate degree program in psychoanalysis.  The Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis–NJ (BGSP-NJ) offers a Masters in Psychoanalysis and a Masters in Mental Health Counseling.  One-year programs of study are also offered for those who want to explore careers in mental health.  All course fees are covered by the Veterans Administration.  BGSP-NJ recognizes that combat veterans seeking treatment are more likely to relate to a professional who has also experienced war-time service.  BGSP-NJ teaches vets to treat vets.  Veterans who would like to find out more about careers in mental health are welcome to enroll in individual courses.  Through our North Jersey Consultation Center (NJCC), a veteran or their family members may receive individual counseling while enrolled as a student or as a non-student.  Family members of veterans, who are eligible under the Post 9/11 GI Bill, are invited to enroll in our master’s degree programs as well.  Courses are offered weekday evenings to accommodate our students who work full-time.  Our staff of professional psychoanalysts has had extensive training and experience in preparing students as psychoanalysts and in treating mental health concerns.  Veterans who live too far away to attend classes in Livingston, New Jersey, may participate in our distance learning program using online video conferencing technology.  BGSP-NJ would be pleased to design coursework schedules around your personal needs. In this regard we can arrange a meeting to discuss how you may best help you reach your goals.

 BGSP is nationally recognized as one of the foremost psychoanalytic training institutions and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.   BGSP-NJ is a non-profit school and treatment center at 301 South Livingston Avenue, Livingston, New Jersey, 07039.