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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

Patty Mullaly

Spring Meeting, 2004
By Patty Mullaly


During the past few years, I have begun to explore the field of psychoanalysis through courses, talks, and conferences put on within the psychoanalytic community in the larger Detroit metropolitan area. When I first began this exploration, I quickly discovered just how much was going on and was thrilled to have so many opportunities to learn about the field. Though I was a newcomer, I felt very welcomed by the community. I appreciated, in particular, the many events that SATA organized and designed for students. Last fall, having recognized that I was becoming more and more fascinated with the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, I made the decision to apply to graduate school. As I write this, I have just started the master’s program in clinical social work at the University of Michigan, through which I am doing an internship at the Psychological Clinic. In the future, I hope to become a psychoanalyst.

I first heard about the national meetings of the American Psychoanalytic Association less than a year ago. With the help of an educational grant from SATA, I was able to go one of these meetings for the first time this summer, in June of 2004. Being so new to the field, I came to the meeting excited and hopeful, but also not knowing what to expect on an academic or personal level.

From an academic point of view, one of the most stimulating parts of attending the meeting came from being able to hear experienced analysts dialogue with each other, critique each others’ ideas and offer different points of view. For example, I attended a panel titled “Affect Regulation, Mentalization and the Development of the Self” in which Mary Target, Peter Fonagy, and Gyorgy Gergely presented a new theoretical model that was then discussed by Robert Michels and Owen Renik. One of the issues raised by the discussants concerned that of the relationship between theory and technique: Does a change in one’s theoretical perspective necessarily entail a change in clinical technique? The discussion in other sessions I attended likewise left me pondering all sorts of intriguing questions: What, for example, is the role of repetitions and enactments in the process of analysis? When do gratification and frustration obstruct the analysis, and when are they useful to the process? Listening to the discussion of such questions gave me no concrete answers, but did help me think about the complexity of the analytic process and sparked many more questions in my mind.

On an interpersonal and professional level, my experience at the American Psychoanalytic meeting as a student was very positive. I found the atmosphere to be welcoming and friendly, as it has also been at psychoanalytic talks and conferences here in Michigan. In the small workshops and discussion groups, for example, other participants went out of their way to introduce themselves to me and to find out about my background and interests. The academic discussion and debate among conference participants was lively and rigorous yet also respectful and even playful at times. It was an environment in which people challenged each others’ ideas, and did so in a way that opened up conversation rather than shut it down.

I’d like to thank SATA and the Michigan Psychoanalytic Society for the educational grant that made it possible for me to attend the June 2004 meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association. I had a great experience which made me look forward even more to studying psychoanalytic thought and practice, as well as to continuing to meet others within the psychoanalytic community.