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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

APT Workshop - When Words Are Not Possible: Action as Communication in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis

Saturday, October 19, 2013
8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
5 CME and CE Credit Hours

Presenter: Aisha Abbasi, M.D.
Training and Supervising Analyst
Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute

For decades, we have been advised to recommend to our patients that they try to “say whatever comes to mind” while with their therapist/analyst. Useful as this basic injunction is, it ignores the fact that all patients communicate not only through words, but also via actions. Most clinicians recognize that some patients may communicate primarily through action for a long time. Other patients might, from time to time, weave particular actions into an otherwise usual clinical interaction. In this conference, clinical material will be used to address a number of questions including, but not limited to: Why do some patients use action as the primary mode of communication? Why do others use action to communicate particular dilemmas, memories, and life experiences at certain points in their treatment? And how can we utilize a theoretical understanding of communication via action in order to usefully address the technical challenges this presents?

Practice Gap: This program bridges a gap in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, between a focus on words as the preferred method of communication of thoughts, feelings, memories and conflicts, and the fact that patients also use actions to convey all of the above. Though action and play are taken for granted as modes of communication when working with children, this has not routinely been so in therapeutic work with adults. This program will focus on helping attendees bridge the gap between our usual theory/technique of communication in the therapeutic setting, and what our patients often actually bring to our offices.

Objectives: Upon completion of this program:

1) Attendees will develop a broader understanding of why certain patients, at certain times in their treatment, might use action as the predominant and preferred method of communication.

2) Clinicians will be able to utilize theoretical concepts regarding different kinds of actions in treatment to identify techniques that facilitate preservation and deepening of the therapeutic process, and lead to understanding and useful change within the patient’s mind.

3) Program participants will learn the usefulness of monitoring their own countertransferences when working with action prone patients, and be able to use such reactions to better understand what is evolving within the therapeutic/analytic dyad and in the mind of the patient.