The Michigan Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology
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From the President
I’d like to take the opportunity in the final column of my Presidential term to thank and recognize a number of people whose work is vital to MSPP and to review where we are in order to see where we’re heading.
Vice President/Past President Etta G. Saxe, Ph.D., has served a Herculean role for MSPP these last two years. She has consistently arranged rich and diverse educational opportunities for the Society. The programs she has planned have always more than lived up to the standards of excellence that the Society strives for. MSPP has been fortunate to program a variety of perspectives in psychoanalysis consistent with our organizing philosophy with Etta at the helm of programming. She has facilitated discussions of all issues at our meetings with insightful comments, encouragement of others and a touch of humor. While doing this, she has also served as Past President at a time when MSPP reorganized some tasks. The Past President is now substantially involved in the membership renewal process. This is often a time-consuming task requiring a delicate balance act and ongoing follow-up. Her perspective and organizational experience have been invaluable to the board and me. Moreover, she has consistently spoken up in various forums for a vision of working psychoanalytically that preserves the widest latitude for thinking and conceptualizing and strives to maintain the space in American society for working in this manner. The entire Society owes her a great deal of thanks and appreciation for her years of dedicated involvement for psychoanalytic psychology in Michigan and nationally.
Treasurer Raymond Vasser, Ph.D., does more than keep the books. Often the job of treasurer is viewed by outsiders as simply collecting the money and paying the bills. But Ray has helped ensure that MSPP remains on sure financial footing during the interesting times we live in. He provides the board with detailed and well organized information and has enabled us to consistently plan our endeavors well. MSPP has a clear sense of its financial house at all times, and Ray facilitates the lowering of monetary anxiety with well timed interpretations of our financial statements. Always on an even keel, a great asset for a treasurer, Ray contributes much needed constancy through our wide ranging board discussions.
If you are reading this, it is because of the outstanding work of our long-serving MSPP News editor, Cynthia McLoughlin, Ph.D. She has consistently produced a high quality newsletter year after year. Cynthia has been extremely instrumental to alerting and informing the readers of the MSPP News about numerous trends in the profession that might (or will) significantly affect the practice of psychotherapy. In addition Cynthia has greatly contributed to the Board process concerning these issues. The MSPP News is much more cutting edge when compared to other Local Chapter newsletters across the country. Moreover, she has served as a leader in attempting to facilitate communication among the newsletters of Division 39’s various Local Chapters.
Terri Egan, Ph.D., has adroitly guided the MSPP website from its inception to its current incarnation. Terri remains a font of knowledge and creative ideas that extend beyond the internet. Under her guidance, the website has become an indispensable resource for MSPP members and any who are interested in various issues pertaining to psychoanalytic work to be found on the web.
Lisa Medoff, Ph.D., has cheerfully jumped in to tackle what some consider to be a thankless task, namely Recording Secretary. Moreover, Lisa facilitated bringing a fascinating speaker to MSPP, Marilyn Nissam-Sabat,, Ph.D. because she kept an eye out for interesting psychoanalytic work. She graciously hosted Dr. Nissam-Sabat, thus enabling MSPP members to experience a new voice (at least to us Michiganders) in psychoanalytic thinking.
Kathy Nelson, Ph.D., has assisted MSPP tremendously by maintaining and updating our database. She put the MSPP directory together efficiently and was a pleasure to work with. She also devoted considerable time to MSPP last summer to help us clean out some dead wood from our data base, which assisted MSPP to communicate more effectively at less cost.
The MSPP Board has put in many hours on Sunday afternoons and in between meetings in order to further psychoanalytic education in Michigan. Although it might seem hokey, I’d ask if members could remember to thank those I’ve mentioned for their dedication, hard work and good humor. The work of all these individuals enables MSPP to have interesting meetings, a substantial newsletter, a vigorous website and a place for those interested in psychoanalytic psychology to discuss psychoanalysis, debate perspectives and enjoy each others’ company.
During the past two years I have had the privilege of serving as MSPP President again. This time around MSPP has extended its scope to noting a number of national trends that could significantly impact psychoanalytic work over the next several years. Issues concerning the manner in which psychologists educate themselves, the strong push in numerous states (including Michigan) toward prescription privileges and the ongoing national debate concerning the definition of evidence in the tidal wave of Evidence Based Practice might fly under the radar screen for some. On the surface these issues could appear to be disconnected to our work. Yet if we dig a bit deeper, we can anticipate that there could be tremendous pressures over the next several years to promote hasty interventions that seek to discount the complexity of the mind. As such, those interested in psychoanalytic work are best advised to consider all of these issues seriously. Although the professions that are invested in psychological work have been long fighting this battle, it previously did not involve as much infighting.
For a long time psychotherapists railed against Managed Care. It was described as promoting expediency above all else, over-regulating the work with silly and unnecessary procedures, fostering superficial interventions with clients who had complex difficulties and emphasizing pharmacotherapy over talking work. As stressful and infuriating as this has been, the conflicts were primarily experienced as between us and them. It has been conflicts with the other.
But the impetus for limiting psychology’s level of educational autonomy, the narrowing of therapeutic options and the hyper-encouragement of pharmacological solutions to distressing affects now stem largely from within organized psychology. In accord with the sentiment expressed in the old comic strip Pogo®, “I have seen the enemy and he is us.” Moreover, disagreement, raising questions and even exercising one’s rights in a democracy can be met with charges that differences of ideas make psychology look foolish and are serious threats to the unity of the field. Too often it appears that one is simply expected to go along with the actions of larger professional organizations without question or be branded as unprofessional, out of touch, disloyal to the field or too complicated. I have even encountered comically serious objections to using philosophical principles as part of one’s rationale to oppose mandatory education requirements. Some suggest that such high fallutin’ stuff represents talking through your hat. They say the rationale for MCE is simple as long as you accept their premises. Ah, a profession where simplicity rules, now isn’t that a splendid ambition for psychology! We could call it the Forrest Gump Goes to Lansing line of reasoning—MCE is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. For the sake of (the appearance of) “unity,” many psychologists are implicitly or explicitly told to keep quiet and agree with us. Fortunately, in the realm of Evidence Based Practice, the APA is entertaining some debate, except on the assumptions of the movement itself. The recent efforts of MSPP concerning these issues could appear different than the forces that helped develop our Society in the first place.
The creation of MSPP provided psychoanalytic psychologists in Michigan with a home of their own for the first time. Unable to kick in the door of institutes at the time, psychoanalytic psychologists and others built their own house. Since the time of the founding of MSPP, there have been a number of changes to the terrain. Most notably the APA won the lawsuit against the American Psychoanalytic Association, and psychologists can be and have been admitted on an equal basis with psychiatrists to psychoanalytic institutes. When MSPP began, there was no way to know whether such a thing would ever be possible. Not only has it happened, but we can see the effects more clearly. Southeast Michigan has two active psychoanalytic institutes, one affiliated with the American and one independent. MSPP remains but in a smaller form than the original and trying to manage the inevitable concerns associated with the phrase bigger is better. The success of the lawsuit enabled the majority of psychologists interested in psychoanalysis to do what they desired to do, namely complete psychoanalytic training within an institute setting.
MSPP remains a place where those more interested in self-study of psychoanalysis and those who hold ties to Division 39 can work together for psychoanalytic psychology. However, instead of creating a home for psychoanalytic psychology, MSPP aims to preserve the greatest amount of space feasible for the diversity of possibilities of psychoanalytic psychology. In order to maintain our devotion to disavow any orthodoxy, the Board has undertaken many efforts to keep the playing field as open as possible. We have been concerned that the over regulation of psychological education can move from regulation of format to the regulation of content. We have tried to note that fundamentally changing the practice of psychology to include prescription privileges risks a seismic change to the discipline of psychology and a de-emphasis or shrinkage of all psychological forms of working with others. We have addressed the possibility that certain definitions of evidence made in the service of political and economic pressures might actually undermine the scientific side of psychology and banish the humanistic side. The Board has been concerned that these educational and treatment movements risk the creation of a new orthodoxy. Only it would not be one that is merely subject to the persuasions of certain universities, the zeitgeist of the field or the allure of a handful of charismatic thinkers. Rather it would be a form of orthodoxy codified into state and federal laws. If you think it’s tough discussing psychoanalysis with adherents of other schools of thought, try fighting City Hall.