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Introduction to Analytic Listening
September 9 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm, Wyman Classroom
First Year Adult Psychoanalytic Training (APT)
2022-23, 1st Trimester — Fridays, 12:00-1:30pm
Katherine Weissbourd, PhD
Welcome to “Introduction to Psychoanalytic Listening.” This course prepares you for the case conferences in which you will participate during your time as a clinical associate. In this course you will begin to experience psychoanalytic listening by sharing your clinical work in discussions with one another as students and colleagues.
There are two broad goals for this course. The first is to orient you to psychoanalytic listening as a clinical concept. Listening is foundational to psychoanalysis, and to a psychoanalytic stance. Almost all components of analytic work flow in some way from your ability to listen. As Alessandra Lemma says: “Analytic listening, unlike ordinary listening, takes place simultaneously on multiple levels and in reference to multiple contexts.” These contexts include unconscious communications, affective themes, conflicts and defenses, intrapsychic levels, attachment styles, enactments, and more.
In most case conferences you will attend at SPSI, one clinical associate per term presents an ongoing case that is discussed by everyone in the class. The presenter shares process material from the previous week, or from another selected period in the treatment. The task of the listeners in the conference is to reflect on the case, think about what is happening between the patient and the analyst from multiple viewpoints, and identify analytic process. The group discussions may include examining transference and countertransference, developmental themes, motivations, unconscious processes, and theoretical perspectives — all of the areas you will be learning about. These are the basic parameters of a case conference.
In this course, which again is an introduction, each student will present for one session, so that you can experience being both listener and presenter. The intent is to allow you to begin listening to yourselves and one another with a psychoanalytic sensibility. In our first class session, we will get to know each other, go over the format for these presentations, and decide on a schedule.
Psychoanalytic training, like analysis and therapy, is a deeply personal, intimate endeavor. It is not uncommon for students to feel exposed or judged in the classroom. But judgment and competition are not the point of a case conference. Curiosity, an openness to new experience, a sense of collegiality, and an appreciation for the vulnerability of presenters and discussants alike, can result in a rich, rewarding and creative experience.
With this in mind, the second goal of the course is to support you in beginning to establish your own unique identity as a clinical associate, and to support your cohort in developing a sense of cohesion, community and trust. You will be learning a great deal in the next four years about the history, theory and practice of psychoanalysis. You will learn a great deal about yourselves and each other. This journey requires that we listen to each other with the same respect, safety and attention that we give our patients. We can do this best when we know each other well and actively learn together.
The majority of each class session will be taken up with your case presentations. At the beginning of each class, we will have a brief discussion about an aspect of analytic listening.
Each week includes texts that I will be using as background for our discussions. They are for reference only, there is no required reading for the course. I will introduce them briefly at the beginning of each class.
September 9, 2022 — Listening to ourselves and each other
How can we make the best use of case conferences? One of the skills that psychoanalysts develop is the capacity to tolerate complexity and to be comfortable with the unknown. We learn to listen with curiosity, and to be cautious about drawing conclusions. In case conferences we encourage our fellow clinical associates to explore new ways of thinking about clinical material. It is important to remember that the clinical associate is the “expert” who has been in the room with the patient, having shared the clinical space and absorbed what the patient brings to treatment. It can be challenging to formulate this experience. As we listen in case conference we encourage the presenter to explore their own subjective understanding. In addition, a presenter can find other perspectives very useful, because they open up new avenues for thinking about clinical material.