Elective in Psychodynamic Psychiatry

The practice of psychiatry has a rich and varied history. For many decades, the psychoanalytic perspective held an important place in psychiatric education. More recently, there has been a significant shift towards the other side of the mind-body split, and issues of meaning are increasingly neglected in psychiatric care in favor of biological approaches. This may be particularly true in medical education where the majority of learning experiences occur on busy, short-stay, inpatient units. For students interested in psychiatry, the well-rounded learning experience at Riggs exposes students to the tradition in psychiatry that emphasizes the importance of meaning, relationships, and patient authority.

The Elective in Psychodynamic Psychiatry is designed to provide medical students with an understanding of how developmental issues and psychodynamics affect not only individual psychology, but also group life, and other aspects of psychiatric practice, such as medication responsiveness. During this elective, students begin to understand the difficulties patients have in maintaining a coherent self and the profound human struggles involved in mental illness. Students will also learn about the psychotherapeutic role and will deepen their understanding of the importance of psychotherapeutic boundaries.

More advanced students and residents may also focus on learning about psychodynamic approaches to treatment-resistance or the psychodynamics of groups and therapeutic community treatment.

The varied educational experience at Riggs 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 patient’s strengths;
  • didactic experiences; and
  • an integration of the whole learning experience through supervision/mentorship by therapy staff.

Students eligible for this rotation will have already completed a core clinical rotation in psychiatry. Interested students should complete and submit the online application along with the requested documentation to the elective’s administrator, Kathleen Young, at kathleen.young@austenriggs.net or by mail. For additional information about the elective, please contact the elective’s director, Nicholas Holliday, MD, at nicholas.holliday@austenriggs.net or 413.931.5290.

"I found the need to trust myself, and to trust those around me. . . . If there is anything I could hope for, it's for the Riggs community to continue to build an environment of trust, relationship, and connection with each other. To feel a common bond and connection is an underpinning of any therapeutic relationship, including a therapeutic community."  
– Ram Lakhani, former Elective in Psychodynamic Psychiatry student 

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