Reminder: APsA Undergraduate Essay Prize deadline fast approaching!

To be eligible, papers must have been written within the past year, either in an undergraduate course or independently under an instructor’s supervision, at a college or university within the United States.  Papers must be 12 to 20 pages long and must not have been published (or submitted for publication) elsewhere.

For more information:

And good luck to all the applicants! 

Remember, too (or, if you’re an instructor, please alert your students), that here at Psyche on Campus we’re always eager to hear from undergraduates studying psychoanalysis–anywhere where in the world!–who have a good pitch for a blog-post.  Simply email your pitch (or a completed post of approximately 800-1200 words) to to be considered for possible publication!

Loneliness and Belonging in College Mental Health

by Spencer Biel and Katie Lewis

In December 2021, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared a youth mental health crisis associated with the coronavirus pandemic, pernicious effects of social media on self-esteem, and sluggish progress on issues like racial justice, climate change, and income inequality. More recently, he stated:

Our epidemic of loneliness and isolation has been an underappreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight—one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2023)

These sobering advisories have special application to college students, whose developmental tasks include transitioning from being a child in a family to an adult in the world. This process involves forming meaningful relationships, trusting in social structures, and cultivating community belonging. However, many students feel isolated, overwhelmed, and unsure whether the adult world is even worth joining. In this post, we consider emerging-adult loneliness through the lens of attachment theory. For those with histories of early adversity, trauma, and disrupted attachment, we propose that a psychodynamic systems approach can be especially helpful to address underlying drivers of loneliness and isolation and enhance belonging.

Loneliness is unavoidable. However, for people who have enjoyed safe, secure formative relationships, it tends to be bearable and temporary. In part, this is because when they are alone and stressed, they can call to mind experiences of being soothed by caring others. Further, loneliness signals a need for connection, and people who are optimistic about receiving help are more likely to reach out and to embrace what is offered.

In contrast, consider the experiences of Sophia, Brian, and Janice.[1]  Sophia is a college freshman who excels academically, leads several clubs, and rarely spends time alone. For Sophia and others like her, merely being in the presence of others isn’t enough to increase her capacity to build trust, express vulnerability, and invest in others emotionally. She feels both drained by her social performance and invisible, but the prospect of facing and sharing herself more fully and unguardedly fills her with dread. Brian, a sophomore, digitally cocoons himself in his dorm room and uses marijuana to mask his feelings. Janice, another sophomore, describes annihilating internal emptiness that she expresses through self-destructive behavior. Brian and Janice both feel horribly alone, but they worry that responding to friendly overtures will leave them open to exploitation.

To address the complex and debilitating loneliness experienced by such students, it’s essential to help them work through their mistrust, and this takes time, trained attention, and skillful coordination of dyadic and social learning. Implementing this sort of treatment on college and university campuses is a serious challenge, given resource limitations, pressure to provide short-term care, and overall strain on clinicians. However, through strategic partnership, it’s feasible. In November 2021, Austen Riggs Center launched a remote access Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for college students.[2]  In collaboration with on-campus counseling centers, we provide accessible, affordable, outstanding clinical care to students who require more than brief therapy, peer wellness support, skills-based approaches, or crisis stabilization. By working with insurers and delivering treatment remotely, we keep costs down (roughly 70% of the students who have participated in our program are on financial aid at their schools) while increasing access to care.

Our psychodynamic systems approach uses a reflective, integrative treatment model to grasp, bear, and put into perspective what patients struggle unsuccessfully to manage internally and in their relationships. The depth of engagement in twice weekly psychotherapy, typically over several months, helps patients address the mistrust, wariness, and dissociation they developed as protective measures in environments riddled with chaos, impingement, or other obstacles to trustworthy relationships. One patient described her experience as follows: “Getting to the root of problems was really important. It helped me feel validation in my struggles.” Another patient said: “How I interact with my emotions has really shifted. I am still an extreme person and that has not changed. But I do not have the same pain and suffering around those reactions. It’s also how I now interact with others and allow others to help.”

The intensity of individual psychotherapy is balanced by peer support and enhanced by social learning. Coordinated interpersonal environments (intensive therapy, medication management, process group, yoga and meditation, and coping-skills group) illuminate ways an individual’s expectations of others interact with social pressures, constraints, and opportunities. A former patient explained: “Being in groups helped me learn more about my own emotions…and not react the same way as before when I get emotional.” She went on to say: “It also helped me see some issues that I was having or have had in the past from a different perspective. It helped me feel less alone.”

Thanks to this more sustained and multidimensional approach, Sophia discovered that her exaggerated caretaking role in groups, which kept her invisible, had roots in her early experience of having a sibling with medical needs that demanded and often overwhelmed parental resources. She understandably harbored resentment, which in turn induced guilt that was channeled through damaging self-sacrifice. Sophia’s peers let her know that her constant busyness and visible exhaustion made them feel unable to reach her, which Sophia could now connect with memories of how she had experienced her beleaguered parents in childhood. This kind of supportive learning, facilitated by staff and peers, can create space to experiment with new ways of relating that can later be applied back at college.

We hope that Riggs’ partnership with colleges and universities can serve as a model for expanding services to under-resourced students while ensuring that treatment is of the highest quality and tailored to specific needs. The grim alternative these days is the proliferation of profit driven, time-limited individual services that, at their very best, offer convenience, a sympathetic ear, and rote coping skills—with little lasting efficacy. To address the epidemic of loneliness, individual suffering must be engaged within relevant social contexts rather than insulated within perhaps more immediately comfortable but ultimately more isolating “self-care.”



[1] In the interest of privacy, pseudonymous composite cases are used to illustrate a range of experiences we have heard from patients.

[2] The Riggs IOP is currently providing treatment to college students and emerging adults in Massachusetts and New York.


Work Cited

Office of the Surgeon General. 2023. Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC, May 2023.

Teaching Psychoanalysis in an Era of Empiricist Psychology: Notes from Cape Town

by Francois Rabie

My love affair with all things psychoanalytic began in my final undergraduate year at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. A module (roughly equivalent to a semester-long course) introducing us to clinical psychology and psychopathology drew strongly on psychoanalysis, and I was hooked. It made intuitive sense. Up until then much of my undergraduate psychology degree had consisted in learning how to design positivistic research methodologies and to deploy statistics in that endeavor. I’ve got nothing against structured observation and factor analysis. But something about the theory and practice of psychoanalysis struck me as intellectually and emotionally compelling—rich with possibilities in ways that psychology was not. In part, perhaps, because I was a humanities major, I was more strongly drawn to psychoanalysis as a way of studying human consciousness and subjectivity.

Twenty-five years later, I’m a clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist—not just thinking about psychoanalytic concepts, but also fully experiencing their meaningfulness to the human condition in my intersubjective encounters with patients. Along the way, my own personal journey as an analysand helped me to apprehend the unconscious in rich, frightening, and liberating ways. Being a psychoanalytic clinician allows me to continue to explore and integrate the theory I’ve studied, the experience of my personal analysis, and, of course, daily encounters with my patients. Among the many satisfactions I derive from this way of life are a more profound personal experience of the oceanic unconscious and a deeply emotional sense of my own developmental journey. At the same time, I continue to refine my technique in the best analytic interests of my patients.

I’ve also continued to work in the academic domain. As a graduate student and, later, as a clinician, I’ve taught psychoanalytic theory at both the undergraduate and post-graduate levels at various universities in South Africa, where—as in the U.S.—the lamentable rejection of psychoanalysis tout court by academic departments of psychology persists, leaving little room for psychoanalytic education.

Rather than debate what constitutes “empirical data” or whether phenomena like transference are “real,” I want briefly to share my thoughts on both the joys and hardships of conveying to students something about psychoanalysis that might inspire them to become more curious about aspects of their lived experience that lie outside the strictly empirical domain. Often, undergraduates begin studying psychology without realizing that they will learn more about statistics than about the human condition, whereas psychoanalysis is the study of the human condition.

As a lecturer in both psychoanalytic theory and clinical psychoanalysis, I’ve faced the perennially challenging questions: How best to teach psychoanalysis? and, Where to begin?

I still think it’s best to begin with Freud. But which Freud? As I see it, the revision of Freudian drive theory by neuropsychoanalysts like Mark Solms significantly enhances our understanding of the nature and function of drive-like mechanisms. We know that Freud began his career as a neurologist and always believed in the neurological underpinnings of psychoanalytic concepts. Solms and others have helped realize Freud’s post-Cartesian vision by offering scientific proof of some of Freud’s most radical insights. This Freud—the Freud I share with my students—is no mere historical figure, but (as ever) a bold thinker for today’s world. I want my students to understand that psychoanalysis has always been about challenging the status quo and about using well-honed techniques of observation, both in the consulting room and, increasingly, in the neuroscientific laboratory.

But if this is the Freud one wants to teach, where can one teach him? Most departments of psychology treat the field either as anathema or, at best, a quaint historical relic. Currently, departments of anthropology, cinema, cultural studies, and literature are the most hospitable environments. But university psychology departments and psychoanalytic institutes need to find ways of entering into constructive and creative dialogue about reforming the psychology curriculum. At the same time, psychoanalytic thinkers need to be more receptive to the best work in other branches of psychology. Ideally, theorists and clinicians from both psychology and psychoanalysis should combine forces and establish dedicated shared spaces at their respective universities. Such spaces could, for example, take the form of monthly psychoanalytic seminars or reading groups, which could facilitate collaborative thinking and serve as crucibles for the development of more formal, credit-bearing modules in psychoanalytic studies.

The obvious rifts between academic psychologists, on one hand, and those few remaining clinical psychologists who teach psychoanalysis within psychology departments, on the other, can be especially bewildering and frustrating for students. They see the eye-rolls of their statistics lecturers and hear the dismissive tones of those devoted to cognitive approaches, whenever psychoanalysis is mentioned.

Many students brought these sorts of experiences with them to my large lecture course on “Personality Psychology,” which I taught in the Department of Psychology at a major South African university. Even though this particular psychology department mandates teaching “some” psychoanalysis, it helps tremendously when, say, the departmental chair is also committed to psychoanalysis, which was the case when I taught there. Still, the anti-psychoanalytic attitudes that students have imbibed continue to generate certain forms of anxiety and defensiveness in me. I know that much of what I say will be met with the same dismissive skepticism they’ve had drilled into them in their (implicitly or explicitly) anti-psychoanalytic psychology courses. It actually helped all of us to speak about these forms of dismissiveness to my class during the orientation lecture and to encourage conversations about the persistent tensions between psychology and psychoanalysis.

For the most part, I’ve found that students quickly overcome this knee-jerk skepticism and are eager to learn about psychoanalytic theory and practice. Indeed, psychoanalysis tends to make psychology “come alive” for many of them, enhancing their curiosity about the workings of the mind. I share anonymized examples from my own clinical practice to help students see even more clearly how unconscious dynamics work.

I’ve also found that literature and film can play a crucial role in enriching students’ understanding of psychoanalytic concepts. For example, I’ve assigned A. S. Byatt’s short story “The Thing in the Forest” as a context for exploring Kleinian psychoanalysis and object relations. The 1977 film Equus, based on Peter Shaffer’s play, has also been a rich source of psychoanalytic insights. Students enjoy such works, and their curiosity about their “meaning” ultimately help them to understand the origins and motivations of that very curiosity in psychodynamic terms.

Notwithstanding these successes, I rarely have more than three weeks in each thirteen-week module to cover psychoanalytic material, as students still must be introduced to theories of personality from psychometric, systemic, and post-modern perspectives as well. This limit makes decisions about what to cover and how all the more challenging. Do I want to give students a sense of the experience of psychoanalysis—a taste of the affective “flavor” of what goes on in the consulting room? Should I seek to help them achieve some form of emotional insight that would be relevant to their own lives and the social world they inhabit? Is it most important for them to understand fundamental concepts, such as the oedipal scenario, even if that means ignoring the subjective dimensions of their own filial anxieties and phallic strivings?

Even in the short time allotted, I try to give them an experience-near education in the fundamentals of psychoanalysis. I also want some of them, at least, to consider possible careers as psychoanalytic psychotherapists or psychoanalysts. Above all, I want psychoanalytic concepts to resonate with them in both intellectually and emotionally meaningful ways.

It’s neither arrogant nor parochial to urge that more time be allotted to psychoanalytic concepts in the psychology curriculum, as they still constitute our most powerful model of human subjectivity. Of course, different psychoanalytic theories give us different roads to follow. But the terrain is always that of the unconscious, and the journey is always intersubjective. Most contemporary psychology departments don’t even provide a copy of the map.

In the end, some of my students do come away with developmentally helpful insights into the workings of their own young selves: their experience of maturation, their relationships with others, their place in the world. That other students remain skeptical is no cause for disappointment, cynicism, or despair. To demand conformation to psychoanalytic thinking would be to undermine the very ethos of psychoanalysis. Also, the tensions between academic psychology and psychoanalysis won’t be resolved anytime soon—they might even prove to be productive (as many disciplinary tensions do), especially now that neuropsychoanalysis is empirically confirming so much of what psychoanalysts have been observing and theorizing for well over a century.

According to psychoanalyst Neville Symington, “psychoanalysis is an experience that occurs between two people. It is a deep experience and can only be very inadequately communicated to another person…The theories within psychoanalytic discourse have as much relation to psychoanalysis as a manual of sexual techniques has to the emotion of being in love” (1986, 9). He goes on to suggest that “psychoanalysis cannot be taught. I can tell you about Freud, I can tell you about the topographical model of the mind, but you will not be an inch nearer knowing what psychoanalysis is, for it is a phenomenon which occurs at the centre of the individual” (1986, 15).

However, as I see it, potentially productive tensions exist not only between departments of psychology and scattered courses and programs in psychoanalytic studies, but also within psychoanalytic pedagogy. Symington forces the question: How do you teach such a subjective form of experience? At the undergraduate level, for example, psychoanalytic theories informed by postmodernist thought contrast sharply with more traditional or “classical” theories. (One approach I’ve developed is to teach Freud as a post-modern thinker himself!) At the graduate level, these differences become even more challenging, as future practitioners face a wide range of clinical models and styles. Just as psychoanalysis and psychology can feel light years apart, psychoanalytic thinkers and practitioners can also hold antagonistic views on matters of both theory and technique.

As teachers, we’ll have to continue to help our students navigate unresolved tensions between theories and concepts, while also—at least indirectly, and even unconsciously—conveying to them something of the affectively charged, interpersonal atmosphere of the analytic consulting room. This atmosphere is saturated with meanings that might be said to approach the condition of truth. Symington, for instance, says that psychoanalysis does not “have” the truth, but that it is able to repair and enhance our ability to seek the truth of our experience. As insights emerge, meaning takes shape and can even be the basis for new epistemologies.

To a significant extent, clinical psychoanalysis is about the re-integration of fragmented selves. We seek to help our patients experience an expanded affective range and to weaken the archaic defense mechanisms that interfere with healthy adaptation and restrict creative growth. And even in an undergraduate lecture hall, with hundreds of students, we can help each one of them apprehend something of the atmosphere of the consulting room and the ways in which theories give way to interpersonal practices—to mutually informing, though asymmetrical, experiences of the dynamic unconscious and new forms of self-encounter.

Work cited

Symington, Neville. 1986. The Analytic Experience: Lectures from the Tavistock. New York: St. Martins.

Building an Undergraduate Psychoanalytic Studies Program

An Interview with Professor Marcia D-S. Dobson of Colorado College

In this interview, Professor Marcia D-S. Dobson discusses with the editor of Psyche on Campus some illuminating personal and professional details related to the creation of an undergraduate Minor in Psychoanalysis: Theories of the Unconscious at Colorado College in 2003.

PoC: Marcia, could you first tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to create a program in Psychoanalytic Studies at Colorado College?

MD: Absolutely. It was after I’d received my second PhD in 1998—my thesis was called “Varieties of Transitional Experience in Psychoanalysis and Ancient Greek Thought”—that I started to feel a strong desire to initiate a psychoanalysis program at Colorado College. For one thing, I wanted to give to our students a taste of what I’d received as trainee at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA. I was accepted into this program as a scholar in Classics (the field of my first PhD) working in ancient Greek drama, religion, philosophy and, of course, the ancient Greek language itself.

PoC: That’s very Freudian, isn’t it? We know Freud himself was an avid student of antiquity and a compulsive collector of artifacts from the ancient world—not only from ancient Greece and Rome but also Etruria, Egypt, China, and India as well. But what prompted you to earn a second doctorate?

Continue reading “Building an Undergraduate Psychoanalytic Studies Program”

Reading Closely with Lacan in the Undergraduate Classroom

by Ian Williams Curtis

In The Pleasure of the Text (1973), Roland Barthes famously celebrated the embodiment of the reader. We not only interpret what we read, we also experience what we read in emotional and even visceral ways. As in the psychoanalytic consulting room, so too in the literature classroom, it is often the affect that accompanies interpretation that leads to insight. As teachers of literature, we have the opportunity to invite our students to recognize and reflect upon their affective and physiological responses, as well as their intellectual and contemplative experiences of reading.

I recently sought to test this proposition with a dozen or so exceptionally thoughtful and curious undergraduate students in my upper-level French literature class (conducted entirely in French) at Kenyon College. We were reading  J. M. G. Le Clézio’s short story, “La Ronde” (1982), in which two adolescent girls respond to a dare. The girls, Martine and Titi, set off on mopeds through an unspecified French city. For the most part, the narrator sticks close to Martine’s point of view, describing her thoughts, emotions, and sensations as she trails behind her friend. Yet, as the girls race through the streets, the narrative focus occasionally shifts away from Martine to a sunburnt woman with a black handbag waiting for a bus and also to a blue moving van that speeds along menacingly. In the end, these three focal points converge: Martine races past the lady at the bus stop, snatching her handbag, and, as Titi escapes on her moped, the blue moving van collides with Martine as she flees the scene of the crime.

Continue reading “Reading Closely with Lacan in the Undergraduate Classroom”

How Far Would You Go?

by Leonardo Niro

In 2015, my department at the University of Essex launched its BA program in Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, the only undergraduate degree of its kind in the UK, and one of only a handful of courses in Europe to be focused on psychoanalysis. I spent a number of years spearheading the program: from curricular design to directing the program in its initial years. Ultimately, I believe the BA has proven highly successful, as evidenced by student enrollment, student satisfaction, and employability after completion.

Continue reading “How Far Would You Go?”

The University and its Discontents

by Adam Sitze

Today the university is the object of critique from almost every conceivable angle. One side blames it for infantilizing students with overprotectiveness (accusing the university, in effect, of being a suffocating mother). Another side accuses it of indoctrinating students with dogmas designed to destroy faith in American democracy (renewing, in the process, ancient hysterias about teachers who corrupt the youth of the nation).  Yet another side holds it responsible for fomenting polarization and division. College students themselves report record levels of depression and anxiety, while increasing numbers of their peers choose not to enroll in college at all. Those who study the matter, meanwhile, seem to agree that the corporatization of the university has left it undone, corrupt, dying out, and altogether dark.

Continue reading “The University and its Discontents”

Psyche on Campus Wins APsaA 2022 Journalism Award

I’m delighted to share the news that Psyche on Campus is the recipient of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s 2022 Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Sincere thanks to the blog’s many contributors, who share in APsaA’s recognition for helping to sustain and enrich what the award citation calls “a public forum for teaching about psychoanalysis in the college classroom and beyond–to an interdisciplinary audience of over 10,000 readers in over two dozen countries–and demonstrating the breadth and value of the psychoanalytic perspective today.”

Sincere thanks as well to the blog’s many readers–more of whom, I hope, will become contributors themselves!

Psychoanalysis and Medical Ethics

by Rachel C. Conrad

On the first day of both my undergraduate (premed) and med school courses on medical ethics, I present a case without a clear answer: “We have one liver and two dying patients. How do we decide who should get the liver?”

I want them to linger with a common dilemma in medical practice—one that doesn’t have a simple answer. I want to open up space for them to acknowledge, both to themselves and to one another, that they can’t always know the “right” answer—that they have to accept ambiguity and allow themselves to feel the irreconcilable tensions that, unfortunately, their education as doctors doesn’t ordinarily acknowledge.

Continue reading “Psychoanalysis and Medical Ethics”

Announcement: APsaA Conference Externship Program

Calling all undergraduate juniors and seniors and graduate students…in all disciplines!

Applications are now being accepted for an expenses-paid externship to the next Annual Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA): January 31 – February 5, 2023
Hilton Midtown Hotel, New York City

Professors: Let your students know about this fantastic opportunity!

Application deadline: November 10, 2022.

Please open this pdf document for further details and application instructions:
APsaA 2023 Externship