The Origins of Psychoanalysis and Foundational Theory

2-Year Certificate Program (2YCP)
2022-23, 1st Term — Mondays, 8:00-9:15pm
James Basinski, MD
Karen Weisbard, PsyD


Over 100 years after the origin of psychoanalysis, Nobel-prize winning scientist Eric Kandel reflected that it "still represents the most coherent and intellectually satisfying view of the mind."  In the next two years, you will be exploring a rich world of ideas, stories, and approaches to understanding the mind and society.  This is the first of several “theory” classes in the curriculum.  We aim to orient your journey into the pluralistic field of psychoanalysis by beginning at the beginning, with Freud himself; his historical context, biography, and some of his most important and revolutionary ideas.  We will study Freud’s theories, read some contemporary takes on specific 'Freudian' topics, and briefly outline the directions that psychoanalytic theory went after Freud. In the second half of the class, we will spend some time on Ego Psychology, a dominant branch in post-WWII America through the 1980’s .  Later courses in the curriculum will explore other contemporary branches in depth.

We hope to support your unique development as a clinician as you integrate your personal experience, training, and clinical work with the new ideas from your readings, instructors, and classmates.

We are inspired by the words of our colleagues Julie Wood, MA and Melissa Stoker, MS, LMHC who wrote in a recent introductory theory class:

We encourage you to consider why you like or dislike a theory, where you feel an affinity or a prejudice, how you practice now, and how you envision your future practice. We encourage you to wonder about why theory is valuable or not, how it is clinically useful and how it can be limiting. And we hope that you will feel the aliveness and vitality of where you sit at SPSI; that you are now a new branch in the family tree of psychoanalytic thinking.

September 12, 2022

Presenters: James Basinski, MD, April Crofut, MD

[15 pages]

We will begin with the first chapter of the Textbook of Psychoanalysis, written by former SPSI faculty member, Daria Colombo.  She outlines Freud’s biography, the cultural/historical context in which psychoanalysis arose, and the major pillars of Freud’s theoretical work, which we will study in more depth in weeks 2-4.

The optional readings offer two unique perspectives on the influence of Freud’s identity on his work.  We chose them because they speak to some of our (Jim and April’s) personal transferences to Freud’s personhood and theory.  As we continue in the class together, we encourage you to consider what draws you to or turns you away from Freud.  Where do you resonate, and where do you find friction?  Does this connect with your identity, culture, and/or individual psyche?

Seminar Objectives:

  • Outline the origins and intentions of psychoanalysis
  • Appreciate the impact of Freud’s life and time on the development of psychoanalysis
  • Consider the ever evolving nature of psychoanalytic theory and clinical work across time, cultures, and individuals including yourself

Colombo, D. (2012) Ch1 “Freud and His Circle.” in Textbook of Psychoanalysis, 2nd Ed (Gabbard, Litowitz, and Williams, Eds.) American Psychiatric Publishing, pp3-17

Optional Reading

Bank, S. & Kahn, M.D. (1980) Freudian Siblings. Psychoanalytic Review 67:493-504

Gaztambide, D. (2015). A Preferential Option for the Repressed: Psychoanalysis Through the Eyes of Liberation Theology. Psychoanal. Dial., 25(6):700-713.

September 19, 2022

Presenters: James Basinski, MD, April Crofut, MD

[28 pages]

The Interpretation of Dreams is one of Freud’s most significant and enduring contributions to clinical practice and the history of ideas.  In this class, we will read a chapter from a popular textbook by Glen Gabbard that summarizes the principles of working with dreams clinically, based on Freud’s original ideas.  We will also read an excerpt from Freud’s original work in which he applies his theory to the analysis of one of his own dreams, the famous “Irma injection dream.”

Seminar Objectives:

  • Understand Freud’s first structural theory, also known as the “topographic model”, including the key features of the unconscious.
  • Become familiar with Freud’s landmark book The Interpretation of Dreams.
  • Understand the four principle dreamwork mechanisms.
  • Appreciate how dreams and fantasies can help elucidate the unconscious in clinical work.

Gabbard, G. (2017) Ch 7 “Use of Dreams and Fantasies in Dynamic Psychotherapy” in Long-Term Psychotherapy: A Basic Text, Third Edition, pp141-155.

Freud, S. (1900) The Interpretation of Dreams (excerpt), in The Freud Reader, pp130-142

Begin with “Preamble”.

September 26, 2022

Presenters: James Basinski, MD, April Crofut, MD

[35 pages]

Infantile sexuality and drive theory are two of Freud’s most revolutionary and controversial ideas.  In this class, we will review them through modern secondary sources, which outline Freud’s original theory and expand it with more contemporary perspectives.

Dominique Scarfone is a psychoanalyst based in Montreal who draws upon concepts from the French school of psychoanalysis (Lacan, Laplanche) in his writing.  This paper reviews Freud’s theory of infantile sexuality and introduces Laplanche’s elaborations on the unconscious being structured by enigmatic sexual messages from adult to infant.  Scarfone packs a lot into a short paper – don’t worry about all of the details of Laplanche’s theory; the intent is to get the general feel.

Mark Solms is a South African neuroscientist and psychoanalyst who established the field now known as neuropsychoanalysis.  He is also a Freud scholar who has played a key role in re-translating the entirety of Freud’s works from German to English in recent years.  In this paper, he outlines Freud’s original drive theory and then updates it with modern findings from neuroscience.  This is a very long paper, so we ask you to just focus on pages 1064-1080 where Solms outlines 7 core drives confirmed by modern neuroscience research.

Seminar Objectives:

  • Become familiar with Freud’s landmark book, “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality”, including Freud’s view of libido, polymorphous perversity, and psychosexual stages.
  • Become familiar with Laplanche’s elaborations on early sexual experience and the unconscious.
  • Recognize the economic point of view in Freud’s metapsychology of psychic life, including psychoanalytic drives from libido and aggression to recent neurobiological conceptualizations by Solms and colleagues

Scarfone, D. (2014) The Three Essays and the Meaning of the Infantile Sexual in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 83:327-344

Solms, M. (2021) Revision of Drive Theory. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 69:1033-1091

Read the first few pages for an introduction, then skip to 1064-1080.

October 3, 2022

Presenters: James Basinski, MD, April Crofut, MD

[27 pages]

Toward the end of his life, Freud elaborated his “metapsychology” to include forms of object (aka others) relating and his second “structural model”, which famously defined the id, ego, and super-ego.  The first reading this week is a single chapter from Freud’s 1923 book The Ego and The Id in which he describes the relationship of the super ego to the ego and relates the formation of the super ego to the resolution/maturation of the oedipus complex.  The second reading is a more modern paper that compares the (Greek) Oedipus myth to Chinese and Indian myths about mother-father-son relationships to demonstrate the developmental challenge of negotiating triangular relationships across cultures.

In the optional paper, Rosemary Balsam (after a lengthy introduction to Freud’s Oedipus and 20th century elaborations), proposes an alternate model for female development that retains the pillars of embodiment, infantile sexuality, and triangularity but includes the female subject’s ongoing (ambivalent) identification with her mother throughout life.

Seminar Objectives:

  • Understand Freud’s second “structural model” including characteristics of and relationships between the Id, Ego, and Superego.
  • Understand the significance of the Oedipus complex in Freud’s theorizing and its relevance for contemporary practice.
  • Reflect on the presence of European cultural norms in Freud’s theorizing.

Freud, S. (1923) The Ego and the Id, III: The Ego and the Super-Ego (Ego Ideal), in The Freud Reader, pp637-645

Tang, N.M. & Smith, B.L. (1996) The Eternal Triangle across Cultures: Oedipus, Hsueh, and Ganesa. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 51:562-579

Optional Reading

Balsam, R.H. (2015). “Oedipus Rex: Where are We Going, Especially with Females?” Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 84(3):555-588.

October 10, 2022

Presenters: James Basinski, MD, April Crofut, MD

[15 pages]

In our final week focused on Freud, we will read portions of a 1926 booklet titled “The Question of Lay Analysis”, which Freud wrote in defense of a non-physician analyst who had been legally charged with “quackery.”   In it, Freud efficiently outlines his vision of what psychoanalysis is, how it works, who it is for, and how it should be practiced. Don’t read it all (though it’s quite engaging)—we’ve identified excerpts by page number below.

Seminar Objectives:

  • Review Freud’s ideas on the goals, mechanism, and process of psychoanalytic treatment.
  • Revisit the major theoretical pillars of Freud’s body of work.

Freud, S. (1926). “The Question of Lay Analysis” in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XX (1925-1926), pp179-258.

Read only pages 179-190 and 229-233.

October 17, 2022

Presenters: James Basinski, MD, Karen Weisbard, PsyD

[40 pages]

Sigmund Freud’s sixth and last child Anna Freud (1895-1982) greatly contributed to the development of psychoanalysis.  Her theoretical work emphasized the importance of the Ego and its normal ‘developmental lines.’  Anna Freud’s disagreements with Melanie Klein about how to understand and work with children resulted in development of three distinct schools in the 1940’s British Psychoanalytic Society (Freudians, Kleinians, and the Independents) which you will learn more about in upcoming courses. This week’s first reading excerpts one of A Freud’s more famous works around cataloging and approaching defense mechanisms in psychoanalysis.  The second reading by Perry and Bond reviews modern empirical literature about defenses while providing granular clinical examples of using them as windows into understanding psychic life and our clinical work.

The very optional paper this week is for the historical completist.    The eminent psychoanalyst Robert Wallerstein (1921-2014) observes how Ego Psychology’s “monolithic hegemony” over American Psychoanalysis in the 1950’s and 1960’s fragmented and changed with the rise of alternative schools like Self Psychology, Neo-Kleinian and Relational psychoanalysis.

Seminar Objectives:

  • Understand how Anna Freud’s emphasized the importance of Ego and specific defense mechanisms in her own work
  • Identify specific defense mechanisms in clinical work and how they can be clinically addressed

Freud, A. (1946). Ch3, “The Ego’s Defensive Operations Considered as an Object of Analysis” in The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, International Universities Press, New York, pp28-41

Freud, A. (1946). Ch4, “The Mechanisms of Defense” in The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense, International Universities Press, New York, pp42-53

Perry, J.C. & Bond, M. (2017). Addressing Defenses in Psychotherapy to Improve Adaptation. Psychoanal. Inq., 37(3):153-166

Optional Reading

Wallerstein, R.S. (2002). The Growth and Transformation of American Ego Psychology. JAPA, 50(1):135-168. 

October 24, 2022

Presenters: James Basinski, MD, Karen Weisbard, PsyD

[48 pages]

This week’s readings sample contemporary psychoanalysts contemplating how best to understand and support the ego and its conflicts in our work.  Fredric Busch discusses his views of how psychoanalyst interpretations can optimally assist without leading the patient’s ego into strengthened states of  self-understanding and regulation. How do you approach the proverbial question of ‘giving a fish vs teaching to fish’ in your own practice?

Sander Abend’s paper reviews and builds on Charles Brenner’s (1913-2008) work suggesting a primacy of ‘compromise formation’ in psychic life.  They describe a theory in which the totality of a person’s mental life and actions is understood as a balance of desires and fears originating from one’s experience and understanding of the self and world from about ages three to five.  Though reductionistic, this theory does offer a focusing lens on clinical material such as what Abend includes.

The very optional reading from Kris offers an extensive clinical illustration of his own psychoanalytic process.  He distinguishes from convergent conflicts in life (conflicts about self assertion, wish against prohibition, which are often ‘oedipal’ level) vs divergent conflicts (those pulling a person in different directions with either/or feelings of having to choose one side but lose the others, which may include ‘pre-oedipal’ abandonment conflicts).  He asserts convergent conflicts improve with insight and lowering of repression and are more amenable to compromise.  Using a clinical example including bisexuality, he illustrates how divergent conflicts, in contrast, lessen with alternating expression of both sides akin to mourning.

Seminar Objectives:

  • Discern the difference between assisting vs dictating to the Ego/ ‘self’ as described by Busch while beginning to consider their approach to this issue in their own clinical work
  • Recognize how ‘modern conflict theorists’ like Brenner and Abend focus on conflict about unconscious fantasy and related compromise formation in clinical work

Busch, F. (1996). The Ego and Its Significance In Analytic Interventions. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:1073-1099

Abend, S.M. (2005). Analyzing Intrapsychic Conflict: Compromise Formation as an Organizing Principle. Psychoanal Q., 74(1):5-25.

Optional Reading

Kris, A.O. (1988) Some Clinical Applications of the Distinction Between Divergent and Convergent Conflicts. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 69:431-441

(Very optional.)

November 7, 2022

Presenters: James Basinski, MD, Karen Weisbard, PsyD

[40 pages]

In the final class, we hope to show how recent analysts have responded to the ever expanding theories and scope of psychoanalysis post-Freud, starting with a classic paper by Fred Pine.  Pine finds a definite place for drive, ego amidst use of self and  object relations in his psychoanalysis, but you may wonder if he accounts enough for ‘two-personal’ relational ideas becoming increasingly prominent since his paper was published in 1988.   Lucy LaFarge demonstrates how an analyst/therapist holds theory (or theories) in mind while doing clinical work with patients.  To highlight an important statement:  “It is a truism of psychoanalysis that theory should never be in the foreground of the analyst’s mind in the clinical moment, but that at the same time an analyst cannot listen analytically without theory in the background of her thinking.”

Seminar Objectives:

  • Outline the broad theoretical directions that psychoanalysis took after Freud
  • Appreciate efforts of analysts’ to integrate disparate psychoanalytic ideas into their own general theory and clinical practice

Pine, F. (1988). The Four Psychologies of Psychoanalysis and their place in Clinical Work, JAPA, 36:571-596.

LaFarge, L. (2017). From “Either/Or” to “And”: The Analyst’s Use of Multiple Models in Clinical Work. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 65(5):829-844.