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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

Lisa Greenlee LaSala - Gaining Confidence and Commitment in New York

Winter Meeting 2005

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I would like to enthusiastically thank the Students and Trainees Association of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Society for making possible my attendance to the fantastic combination of intellectual and cultural stimulation that was the 2005 Annual Winter Conference of the American Psychoanalytic Association in Manhattan.

It was cold and snowy outside, but I was welcomed warmly inside the Waldorf wherever I went, not only by my co-sponsored classmate in my Ph.D. Psychology program at University of Detroit-Mercy, but by other MPI members and conference attendees in general. My initial insecurity in the company of so many nationally recognized analysts that we read about in class was largely replaced by a growing curiosity about and appreciation for the rich psychodynamic insights these practitioners offered.

One of the most difficult tasks at the conference was choosing among all the workshop offerings at any one time. After a while, though, I began to get the hang of it, and if I didn’t want to miss an event overlapping with another one, I simply quietly left the first in the middle to take in a second as well. And I must confess, part of the sheer joy and delight of the trip was experiencing New York City as well, as I skipped out occasionally in the beginning of the trip to be an obvious tourist, looking into the air in awe and walking unintentionally into people as I was outside of the preconscious systematic organization that has been artfully adapted by the natives.

One example of the incredibly rewarding programs I attended was co-chaired by the renowned Salman Akhtar, MD, and was titled “Disruptions, Dilemmas, and Difficult Decisions: Analytic Theory and Technique.” It was also co-chaired by Axel Hoffer, MD, with the presenter being Andrea Celenza, Ph.D. The first aspect that impressed me was how open and non-defensive Ms. Celenza was in presenting her fascinating case involving the patient’s erotic fantasies toward her as well as an incident where she felt threatened by the patient’s overt aggression. She created a comfortable environment by admitting that she was uncertain of how to effectively intervene. Numerous issues arising from the case were discussed including when to interpret defenses, when to withhold and when to gratify the patient, when and how much to self-disclose, the relationship between fear and sexual desire, how to understand and utilize in treatment a patient’s deepest fears and desires, and the relationship between aggression, pain and the need for humanly affective connection.

A second example of the richness of the conference experience was walking through a roomful of poster boards on display, which outlined various psychoanalytic research projects and being able to dialogue with the researchers themselves. Many of these topics related to my specific interests in attachment theory and outcome studies. They included such interesting titles as “Post-Termination, Self-Reported Satisfaction with Psychotherapy: An Attachment Perspective,” and “Changes in Object Relations following Intensive Psychoanalytically-Oriented Inpatient Treatment,” which I had participated in with John Porcerelli, Ph.D., and then surprisingly saw my name on the poster board.

I want to thank SATA and MPI for an incredibly rich and professionally gratifying experience at the 2005 meetings in New York. I feel that I grew intellectually and in my commitment to not only my field but to the curative powers of the psychodynamic approach. In addition, I met many wonderful intelligent and caring psychotherapists and analysts and along the way was able to experience a small but intense taste of what one of the most culturally- and richly-diverse cities in the world has to offer. By the time I left, I noticed a transition had taken place. I walked out of the hotel smoothly, without disrupting the hurrying pedestrians. As I was leaving, I realized that the psychoanalytic community in return appreciated my interest and presence.