I call my study groups “Lessons From Pandora’s Box” for a reason: depth therapy is hard on therapists. We need a safe space to debrief and to face the inevitable chaos that our work stirs within us. We also need exposure to cutting edge developments in theory of mind, interpersonal neurobiology, relational analysis, mind/body phenomena, and the psychology of primitive mental states and unmentalized experience. If your practice is anything like mine, your patients rarely fit neatly into the clear diagnostic schemata offered by the DSM; nor are your patients neatly summed up in books on ‘the borderline Patient,” “Self Disorders,” or “The Difficult Patient.” For our readings, I try to choose topics that are eclectic and which are primarily outside of the mainstream of continuing education experience. Unlike some clinicians, I truly do not believe there is one right psychotherapeutic method or theory; rather, I believe we are continually challenged to stretch ourselves and to brave the unknown with our therapeutic partners in change. Solid grounding in the classical texts about psychopathology, theory and practice is essential training but inevitably carries the accompanying risk of a false sense of confidence, even arrogance, about our infallible wisdom and technique. The only antidote to this kind of hubris is a professional humility that embraces the passionate belief that we can only, at best, be eager students of the infinite variety encompassed within the human condition. My hope is to introduce many thought-provoking issues and to disrupt therapeutic complacency. We study many unusual patient presentations that typically do not find their way into workshops: the false self, schizoid disorders, psychosomatic disorders, complex PTSD, encapsulated psychotic and autistic states, covert dissociation, and high functioning autism. We wrestle with the real-time dilemmas of working hour by hour to unravel the mysteries of our patients’ pain, angst, and confusion, and explore a myriad of fascinating templates for understanding the human condition. Psychotherapy at its finest evolves into an art and a discipline that accords the concept of spirituality the same respect as psychopathology and ‘cure.’ As therapy progresses patients open doorways into spiritual experience from which their lives ultimately derive the most satisfying meaning. I consider it a privilege and an honor to grow alongside them.
Our readings are sometimes challenging; I try and pick only books and articles that stir passion and curiosity. Thus we reserve about half of our time together each week to explore the weekly reading, and dedicate the rest of the time to professional development, whether it be a discussion on practice building, a group, individual, play therapy or couples session gone awry, case management or a difficult ethical challenge. The life experiences of many senior clinicians are opened up for our vicarious participation and discussion. This openness demands great trust within our group container. You will find that little to no time in these study groups is wasted on ‘looking good’ or competitive issues. We open our hearts and look deeply inside: else we could not in good conscience ask our patients to do the same. We walk the walk, as well as talk the talk of psychotherapy. All of us continue to be deeply invested in our own growth, and look to our weekly sessions as an opportunity to know each other inside and out.
Study groups meet weekly, from October through the end of May: Tuesday 10:30-12:00, or Wednesday 11:15-12:45.