Elective in Psychodynamic Psychiatry

The Elective in Psychodynamic Psychiatry is designed to provide students of psychiatry (including both medical students and psychiatric residents) with psychodynamic perspectives that complement the medical model that is dominant in mainstream psychiatric approaches to major psychiatric illness.

A Unique Training Opportunity

During the Elective in Psychodynamic Psychiatry, students join the Therapeutic Community in a psychoanalytic hospital. In this context, you have an opportunity to learn how a patient-centered, psychodynamically-informed approach is able to capitalize on issues of meaning, relationships, and patient authority in order to optimize treatment outcomes for patients who have typically been seen as “treatment-resistant.”
The elective course is intended to provide you with an understanding of how developmental issues and maladaptive efforts to cope with developmental stress can foster psychopathology. You’ll learn how psychodynamics affect not only individual psychology, but also shape group functioning (including the function of clinical treatment teams), medication responsiveness, and other aspects of psychiatric practice. By attending staff and team meetings, case conferences, individual supervision, and other educational opportunities, you’ll learn about the psychotherapeutic role, deepen your understanding of the importance of psychotherapeutic boundaries, and understand more about the struggles and techniques involved in attaining a therapeutic alliance. Didactic experiences complement this learning and help you develop a deeper understanding of psychoanalytic theory.
The psychiatry elective experience may be tailored to the specific interests of more advanced students and residents, including a broader focus on learning about psychodynamic approaches to treatment-resistance or the psychodynamic perspectives of groups and therapeutic community treatment. Students may also conduct interviews with patients aimed at developing a psychodynamic formulation that appreciates the adaptive value of the patient’s psychopathology, transference and countertransference implications emerging from the patient’s history, and an appreciation of how the patient’s dynamics contribute to treatment-resistance, including resistance in relation to pharmacotherapy.

The varied educational experience at Riggs typically includes:

  • Involvement in the therapeutic community program as participant observers
  • Learning about psychotherapy and dynamic formulation
  • Learning about the psychodynamics of psychopharmacology
  • A focus on patients' strengths
  • Didactic experiences
  • Integration of the entire learning experience through supervision/mentorship by therapy staff

At the conclusion of the elective, you will be expected to:

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the process of psychodynamic psychotherapy
  • Demonstrate a general grasp of psychoanalytic theory and concepts
  • Express a basic knowledge of transference and countertransference
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the importance of boundaries in psychiatry
  • Convey an understanding of the fundamental principles of psychodynamic psychopharmacology

Applying for the Elective

To be eligible for this rotation you will need to have already completed a core clinical rotation in psychiatry and be in good standing in your LCME-accredited training programs.

Begin the Process

Begin your application with this easy-to-use form.

To be eligible for this rotation you will need to have already completed a core clinical rotation in psychiatry and be in good standing in your training programs. If you’re interested in the elective, you should complete and submit the online application along with the requested documentation to the elective’s administrator, Kathleen Young, or by mail. For additional information about the elective, medical students should and psychiatric residents should email David Mintz, MD or call 413.931.5315.
What Former Elective Students Have to Say
The Psychotherapy Elective allowed me to explore emotionally charged and challenging patient encounters amongst supportive colleagues. I highly recommend this elective because it allows you to grow into the role of a psychiatrist and identify complex social situations our patients experience."
- Breyauna Spencer, DO
More About Breyauna
The elective was a formative experience in my medication education. I loved working with leaders in the field and developing psychotherapy skills with faculty supervision. This experience provided a great foundation to build upon during residency and I cannot recommend it highly enough."
- William Butler, MD
Other Learning Opportunities
I feel certain after my time at Riggs in the elective that in order to be able to fully serve my patients, I must be able to offer them this form of therapy in addition to medications. I am deeply grateful for my time at Riggs and the opportunity this wonderful community offered me. "
- Sheena Orellana, MD
More About Sheena

Contact Us for More

For more information about the Elective in Psychodynamic Psychiatry, please feel free to get in touch.