The Riggs Blog

Riggs clinician and President of Division 39 Marilyn Charles, PhD, presents “The Future of Psychoanalysis”

Founded in 1979, the Division of Psychoanalysis is the 39th division of American Psychological Association. With a membership of over 3,000 professionals, the Division is one of the largest associations of psychoanalytic professionals of its kind. Marilyn Charles, PhD, staff psychologist at the Austen Riggs Center, is currently serving as the president of Division 39.  In April, the Division convened its annual meeting.  Dr. Charles provided a talk, titled “The Future of Psychoanalysis.”

Questioning the notion that “psychoanalysis is dead” and tracing thinking from Freud to Bion, Lacan and Winnicott, Dr. Charles states:

Although there is a tendency in all fields to drift towards dogma, the analytic process remains a powerful method for making sense of complex experience and a useful lens to study, not only the individual psyche, but also the individual in context - couples, families, culture, society, and the products of culture, such as humanities and the arts.  In the universities in this country, psychoanalysis as a technical lens is now most prevalent in the arts and humanities, rather than in the fields of psychology and the human sciences.

That was not always true.  At one time, psychodynamic theory was alive and well in our psychology departments but, increasingly, it has been pushed to the side as the treatments that evolved from it, such as CBT and DBT, have lost their roots, and the national trend towards 'evidence' has become at times so simplistic that we have evidence with no substance.  Although psychodynamic clinical training is increasingly marginalized by the trend towards constricting standards, students seek it out because of their recognition of the depth and breadth that such training brings to clinical experience.  To combat that trend, and to make room for the plurality of training offerings that help to ensure that good treatment is available, last year at the Austen Riggs Center, we held a conference for educators who value psychodynamic training, to try to work together to rebuild the health and vitality of this important offering.  We need to continue these efforts and learn how to invite respect for the values and tools we cherish.

Dr. Charles continues to discuss the value of psychoanalytic work, its lens and its utilization as a powerful tool in the quest for discovery. She also outlines the work she would like to see happen for Division 39.  For the audio clip of her entire address, please click here.

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