Psychoanalysis and the Re-Enchantment of Psychiatry: Jonathan Shedler, PhD

This interview comes from Conversations in Critical Psychiatry – an interview series from psychiatrist Awais Aftab for Psychiatric Times. The series explores critical and philosophical perspectives in psychiatry and engages with prominent commentators within and outside the profession who have made meaningful criticisms of the status quo.

In this interview, Dr Aftab and Dr Shedler [psychodynamic psychotherapist] discuss the relationship between the psychoanalytic worldview and the medical model, and they reexamine the role of psychodynamic psychotherapy in contemporary psychiatry and psychology.

Here’s one extract:

Shedler: The problem is that researchers and psychotherapists operate in different silos and often have little understanding of one another’s work—or the questions they consider relevant. Academic psychiatrists who pursue research careers may not have patients after residency, let alone practice psychotherapy. Academic psychologists may never work with a patient in their lives. Unless they get meaningful personal therapy, they cannot know what happens in psychotherapies of depth, insight, and relationship. Many researchers have trouble even conceptualizing psychotherapy as something with a purpose other than alleviating DSM symptoms. That is not its purpose.

One purpose of psychoanalytic therapy is to insert spaces for reflection where they have not previously existed and so create opportunities to know ourselves more fully, connect with others more deeply, and live life more congruently. Alleviating DSM symptoms is far down the list of what patients want from psychotherapy and what experienced psychotherapists focus on. That is not opinion; those are empirical findings …”

You can read the whole interview here.

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