The Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies together with New Jersey Society for Clinical Social Workers provided an open discussion on “The Complexities of Therapy with Clients who are Dealing with the Aging Process and Physical Illness” on November 13, 2016. Our facilitator, Mosse Burns, L.C.S.W, introduced the program with two clinical cases that illustrated how aging can affect the client as well as the therapist in different ways. Aging can involve complex patterns of loss, including less independence, altered bodily functions, monetary concerns, loneliness and fear of illness and death. Therapists treat not only the older patient but they also treat the younger family members who often are the caretakers. Complexities arise for the therapist because of their own countertransference issues, i.e. how they might be dealing with their own aging process, and how they might be managing their own caretaking concerns.
The discussion was attended by an enthusiastic group of therapists, who discussed a wide spectrum of clinical experiences. The participants discussed many important issues, such as the limited time available for change, diverse cultural expectations, families burnt out by the aging client, characterological differences in idiosyncratic reactions to multiple losses, the experience of narcissistic injury for some women because of the loss of beauty, and the impact of a psychiatric diagnosis on elderly who are institutionalized and no longer able to live at home.
The discussion was animated and well attended.
On Sunday, December 11, 2016, the Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies held a Conversation on the topic: When the Political Becomes Personal: How a Psychoanalytic Understanding Can Help Our Clients Deal with the Polarized Post-Election Climate.
The Institute decided to offer a free, open forum for therapists to discuss how this election has affected our work since many of our clients have experienced increased post-election anxiety and a variety of other strong reactions. Since therapists are on the front line of working with depression and anxiety and often work alone in private practice, IPS wanted to create a space for clinicians to share thoughts and experiences related to how the current climate was impacting them as well as their clients.
Our facilitator, Lisa Sokoloff, LCSW, led the discussion of how a lack of safety has been experienced by some clients as a result of the election, especially those that have experienced prior trauma in their lives, including women who have a history of sexual abuse, minorities who have faced discrimination or hate crimes and others who are frightened of how the new administration may impose restrictions on civil rights and women’s right to choose.
The idea that a person’s character would be a major factor in how someone reacts to different life events was explained as a basic tenet underlying all psychoanalytic treatment. The concept of the Third was mentioned, where the polarized position of opposites can expand to include a neutral space where differences can be explored in an atmosphere of acceptance and safety. .
In addition, therapists shared how their countertransference came into play when working with clients who shared similar political points of view as well as different ones and how each played a part in shaping the transference/countertransference matrix.
The Conversation was well attended by a wide variety of clinicians and everyone participated, with differing views being explored.
Lisa Sokoloff, LCSW