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4th Year Independent Study

April 12, 2024 @ 1:45 pm - 3:15 pm, Freud Classroom

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Adult Psychoanalytic Training (APT)
2023-24, 3rd Trimester — Fridays, 1:45-3:15pm
James Basinski, MD

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A Discussion Group of Ackerman’s “Impossible Ethics” Course

In its referral to Janet Malcom’s classic Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession, Sally Ackerman’s article, course and syllabus continue the tradition of viewing any analytic journey as one of constant reflection and calibration amidst inherent uncertainties and ambiguity about the “process”.  She centers a theme of ethics around approaching “classic” questions of psychoanalysis like frame, efficacy, use of relationship from one and two person perspectives, all complicated by underlying communication and intrapsychic fields ranging from conscious to unconscious.  This course will use her syllabus and readings as a “capstone course” inviting the fourth year CA participants to further integrate their extensive knowledge of theory and clinical experience around what will surely be career-spanning questions of how to effectively and adaptively work with their patients.  We will also consider the scope of the participants’ personal definition of ethics in psychoanalysis from more narrow considerations of issues like informed consent, confidentiality, and boundaries, to the more expansive conceptualization described by Ackerman and others.

Dr. Ackerman’s describes her own course as following:

This course will invite attendees to consider the notion that ethical dimensions are present in every moment of analytic practice, where we struggle with our analytic ideals alongside an awareness of our inability to fully inhabit them.  This struggle maps onto the experience of being human, where societal norms and morays ask us to repudiate our more animal impulses.  What complicates matters in psychoanalysis is that ethics are fundamentally imbricated in analytic technique—our very actions as analysts are always a call to the ethical. A practice of living the ethical will be presented, in which analysts are called to find their ethical bearing in the specific context of the unique relationship they have with each patient. This asks the analyst to be aware that her ability to make an ethical decision is compromised by her inability to fully appraise her own unconscious pulls.  Further, it reveals that ethics are most evident retrospectively, as each analytic couple makes sense of earlier choices that were made with ethics in mind. Together as a group, we will apprehend a way in which we are living the ethical together with our patients, in constant conversation with ourselves about our choices, and in constant reflection with our patients about how our choices have landed.

Our own class will meet from 1:45-3:15pm for six consecutive weeks from April 12, 2024 to May 17, 2024. The three participants in this advanced elective course will be asked to co-lead two of the classes with me as bridging activity to encourage experimentation and development of their own teaching styles.  They may decide to: write a list of their own discussion questions, prepare a bit of case material or ask participants to, request class participants to write up a page of association/responses or any other methodology of organizing the discussion, including no particular plan (though they will be still be expected to do an extra thorough reading of the papers that week!)

We will largely use a syllabus Dr. Ackerman used in a previous course.

Learning Objectives

Participants in this class will:

  1. Demonstrate working familiarity with the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Code of Ethics, while recognizing inherent ambiguities and difficulties around attending to multiple simultaneous concerns in psychoanalysis
  2. Consider how personal and professional ethics may be broadly conceptualized as ever-present in all community and clinical activities of psychoanalysis
  3. Be ready for a lifetime of learning and development of their ‘inner ethicist’ (including teaching, clinical, and supervisory roles)  as well as recognizing resources for help and consultation

April 12, 2024 — Introduction to the topic

[43 pages]

Ackerman, S. (2020) Impossible Ethics. JAPA. 68(4), 561-582

Molofsky, M. (2014) Teaching Professional Ethics in Psychoanalytic Institutes: Engaging the Inner Ethicist. Psychoanalytic Review, 101(2), 197-217.

(I added this fairly quick reading to help facilitate discussion of the class’s own definition and understanding of the scope of professional ethics in psychoanalysis.)


April 12, 2024
1:45 pm - 3:15 pm
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(206) 328-5315
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4020 E Madison St, #230
Seattle, WA 98112
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(206) 328-5315
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