APsaA 2016



by John Prusinski

The Austen Riggs Center recaps the January 2016 APsaA meeting in New York City.January in New York City conjures up images of blustery winds and freezing temperatures, but the weather was relatively mild this year as The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) held its 2016 annual meeting at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan January 12-17. 

APsaA is a professional organization for psychoanalysts, focusing on education, research and membership development. The Association’s members gather at the annual meeting to exchange ideas, present research papers, and discuss psychoanalytic training.

This year’s meeting welcomed a number of Riggs clinicians as presenters and discussants, including Eric Plakun, MD, Elizabeth Weinberg, MD, Andrew Gerber, MD, PhD, Megan Kolano, PsyD, and David Rosenthal, LICSW.

Jane Tillman, PhD, who is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association (JAPA), and David Mintz, MD, a member of the Committee on Psychoanalysis and Medical Students, also attended.

A highlight of the event was the presentation of the 2015 Sigourney Awards, honoring achievements for the advancement of psychoanalysis.  One of two recipients was Senior Erikson Scholar Vamik Volkan, MD, who was cited for his “seminal contributions to the application of psychoanalytic thinking to conflicts between countries and cultures.”   In addition, the award noted how “his clinical thinking about the use of object relations theory in primitive mental states has advanced our understanding of severe personality disorders.”

As at past APsaA Annual Meetings, Austen Riggs maintained a presence in the Exhibit Hall, featuring a table with publications and informational material about the Center, and for the first time Meaning Matters, the online community for mental health professionals hosted by Riggs, exhibited at the meeting, signing up new members and speaking with attendees about the community.  

Amy Taylor, PhD, graciously offered to serve as a “roving reporter” at the conference for Meaning Matters, posting regular updates to a new Forum on the website called “From APsaA” and sending a regular stream of tweets to the new Meaning Matters Twitter feed, @M_M_Community.

APsaA includes a wide range of subjects in plenaries, workshops and discussion groups, and Dr. Taylor’s commentary reflected that: 

“At APsaA in a panel on the experience of being supervised, one analyst described how her supervisor worked with her to restore her analytic stance and containing function by teaching her to recognize her experience as showing her the patient’s experience – and to attend to and value her experience in the first place.”

“I just came from a fabulous presentation by the psychoanalysts who consult at Jubilee Jumpstart, a day program for low SES children in DC, ages 6 weeks to kindergarten.  The consultants train the teachers in child observation by taking video of the children and then asking teachers to describe what they see (what they think and feel comes later – first, it's what they can observe).”

“Part of the effort to bridge the gap between research and (psychoanalytic, psychodynamic) practice is operationalism, as Robert Gordon and Nancy McWilliams discuss here at APsaA 2016, regarding what they learned in their efforts when revising the PDM to make the current PDM-II.  “Operationalism” is the philosophical idea that we do not know the meaning of a concept (for instance, “countertransference,” “borderline”) unless we can measure it.”

To read the complete text of Dr. Taylor’s observations, please visit Meaning Matters (registration required, mental health professional credentials necessary).