Society, Self, and Psychotherapy: The March CAPP Conversation

CAPP Conversations are a series of conversations for psychotherapists by the Chicago Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology.  Here is the March Conversation:

Society, Self, and Psychotherapy

A CAPP Conversation

Shunda McGriff, M.S. Counseling, LPC, NCC, Jay Einhorn, Ph.D., LCPC
March 17th, 10:00-11:30 AM

Evanston Location

To what extent is the self shaped by the social world in which it develops?  And to what extent is that social shaping of the self recognized by theory and training in psychotherapy?

From the beginning, the vision of personality in psychoanalysis, and the various schools that evolved out of and around it, focused mainly on dynamics within a limited field of relationships:  the attachment dyad, the Oedipal triad, the family system.  This view of human nature, valuable as it can be, fails to give proper proportion to the person in society—and society in the person.  The neural networks of the brain form in neuroplastic response to impacts from many people, and many subcultures of society, from the block to the school, the church or temple, the workplace, the ethnic culture, the nation and beyond.  The relationship of the individual to society becomes particularly salient for psychotherapy when the client’s self has developed in a disempowering social context.  Relational-Cultural Theory (RCT) grew out of the recognition that the central role of relationships, particularly in the lives of women and minorities, and the experience of inequality in relationships, needed to be appreciated for counseling/psychotherapy to be adequate to the needs of clients with these experiences.

In today’s Conversation we will consider the traditional view of self in psychotherapy, then look again in the light of RCT, and see whether that brings us toward a more comprehensive view of human nature from which to ground ourselves as therapists.
Shunda McGriff, M.S. Counseling, LPC, NCC is currently a doctoral candidate at Governors State University in the Counselor Education and Supervision program. She is a 2014-2015 National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) Fellow.  Professionally, Shunda has worked as a college counselor for 15 years with low-income, first-generation, and minority student populations.  Jay Einhorn, Ph.D., LCPC, is President of the Chicago Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology, a therapist in private practice in Evanston and Glencoe, consulting psychologist at Roycemore School, and a supervisor in the counseling program at the Family Institute.


President of CAPP

In September, I became President of the Chicago Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology.  It’s been a very busy time, creating programs for therapists and helping CAPP take care of its business.  Here’s the President’s Message, from the CAPP website,

President’s Message, Winter 2015

President’s Message, January, 2015: Jay Einhorn, Ph.D., LCPC

Welcome to CAPP, and thanks for being here!


Historically, CAPP was in the vanguard of the movement to open the doors of psychoanalytic training to non-physicians. Today, we seek to bring together therapists for mutual learning through the study of therapeutic experience in the light of psychoanalytic/psychodynamic concepts and methods. Since we see all forms of therapy as having psychodynamic activity, we think that therapists of various training and back-ground help refine one another’s understanding and perceptions and learn together.
Our programs include:

•CAPP Conversations: monthly (more or less) informal meetings on topics of therapeutic meaning, providing opportunities for therapists to consider and discuss important issues. CAPP Conversations do not grant CEs. At the time of writing, we’ve done programs on: “Fundamentals of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: What Are They?!”, “Psychodynamic and Cognitive Psychotherapy: Overlapping Dimensions or Separate Universes?”, and “Adoption: Development and Psychodynamic Issues,” and we are planning programs on “Gossip: We Love It, We Suffer From It, Do We Need It?” and “Relational Cultural Therapy in Psychodynamic Perspective.” And we plan to do more!

•Building Bridges: Psychodynamics Across Psychotherapies: more formal programs that grant CEs; often upward extensions of topics first presented as CAPP Conversations.

•Peer Study Groups: Ongoing and time-limited groups in which therapists re-fine their perceptions by considering analytic-dynamic therapy together. Current groups include a Chicago analytic readings/cases group, a Hinsdale cases group, an Evanston cases group, and an Evanston psychodynamic-neuroscientific readings/cases group. Time-limited peer study groups have included “Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health,” and “Multicultural Therapy.” We plan to do more.

•Partnering with Co-Sponsors: We are interested in exploring partnerships with co-presenting groups and organizations.

•Presentations for Consumers: We are interested in talking about the value of therapy to groups of potential consumers. We can say that “Therapy Works” because ALL therapy contains psychodynamic processes, whether it is called psychoanalytic/dynamic or not.

CAPP creates opportunities for working therapists throughout their careers to share and learn about analytic-dynamic therapy through discussing the actual experience of it. It is neither an academic nor a training program, but a complement to both.

I have been CAPP’s Chair of Peer Study Groups for a decade, and in the peer study groups we see the value of therapists of various backgrounds meeting to discuss cases, with an open mind to analytic-dynamic formulations that increase our under-standing of the experience of the patient or client, the therapist, and the patient-therapist pair. Therapists with various kinds and levels of training can help one another in this process.

A word about psychoanalysis and psychodynamics. The term “psychodynamic” is used in different ways; sometimes as an equivalent to “psychoanalytic” (when the speaker or writer means “psychoanalytic” but fears that the reader or listener might have an attitude about it); sometimes to include all schools of analysis (Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian, Self, Relational, etc.) in contexts where “psychoanalysis” might be seen as referring exclusively to Freudian-classical psychoanalysis; and sometimes to refer inclusively to all the microcultural schools within the macroculture of psychoanalysis, plus other dynamic formulations of mental life and therapeutic activity. It is in this latter sense that I am using the term. One of the great discoveries of psychoanalysis is that there can be splits within the self, in which different parts of the self interact dynamically. Emerging neuroscience both supports long-term reflective empathic therapy, and gives us the model of a modular and dynamically networking brain.

It might even be that the splits within the self reflect the splits within the cultures within which we grow up and live. In a time of accelerating social and economic change, analytic/dynamic therapy provides one of the few resources with which we can reflect on, recollect, and reorganize ourselves, the better to reclaim ourselves and live a more meaningful life. I happen to believe that it is not accidental or coincidental that analytic/dynamic therapy developed in Europe just prior to World War I, when the empires that defined the geopolitical world were about to collide and disintegrate. Sabina Spielrein, an overlooked mother of psychoanalysis, presented on “Destruction As a Cause of Coming-Into-Being.” I’d say there’s still a lot to think about in that.

CAPP is a therapeutic home for some members, and a good place to visit for others. You don’t have to be a member to attend our programs, so come and taste, listen, experience. I invite you to consider joining if you like what you see, hear and feel! There is a lot to learn. Let us learn together!