Division 39 Review

by Kristin Felch, PsyD

It's good to look up. Life can sometimes feel like a blur of work and family, not to mention student loan notices. Finding moments of inspiration can be difficult, a challenge not unlike a pile of papers you sincerely intend to read, and to read very soon. When a conference comes to town -- like a circus of magnificent characters and possibilities -- it can sweep us into a world of wonder. This past April, APA Division 39, the Division of Psychoanalysis, rolled its annual Spring Meeting into our town.

Let's begin with a standing ovation for the NCSPP community members who were central to planning and participating in three rings of clinical and theoretical acrobatics. Local clinicians, students, and trainees met and mingled with attendees from across the country, all of whom were interested in conversations about psychoanalysis in its many guises.

Papers and presentations highlighted forward-thinking; local acts focused on queer parenting, therapeutic ruptures, play in cyberspace, intersections with Buddhism, and kink communities. Panels explored the creation of a summer camp for children with ill family members, a hospital-based intervention for new mothers, and Reflective Spaces/Material Places (jointly sponsored by NCSPP, PINC, and Access Institute), a forum for joinging community-based work with psychoanalytic thinking.

In a keynote address, choreographer Goode explored the use of movement, utterance, and the human body to evoke unspeakable experiences. Interviewer Bart Magee of Access Institute linked Joe's work with clinicians' attempts to forge deeply felt connections in wordless realms with patients. In another keynote address, Steven Xenaxis and Ghislaine Boulanger discussed international humanitarian efforts and controversies within the American Psychological Association. General Xenaxis's experience of assessing detainees at Guantanamo Bay inspired his plea for holding institutions and governments accountable for human rights abuses, and for refraining from complicity in perpetuating these abuses.

Themes of building and belonging in a psychoanalytic community echoed under the big top. NCSPP members offered stories about their formative relationships with psychoanalysis. Others explored vulnerabilities they've experienced as trainees of color and community mental health providers in developing a psychoanalytic identity. These moments offered succor to those with concerns about transgressing orthodoxy and/or the demise of psychoanalysis. A movie night, discussions with authors, and meetings with theoreticians provided numerous possibilities for a sense of enlivenment.

It's good to look up from the road in front of you, to engage with ideas both novel and familiar, and to meet kindred spirits. The Spring Meeting offered motivation and opportunity to look up, replenish a sense of discovery, and experience the feeling of belonging to something larger.