Course Title: Psychoanalytic Engagement in the Context of Race, Ethnicity, and Social Class (12 CE credits)
Instructor: Susan Rios, M.S., LCSW
Meeting dates (2021): October 18, 25; November 1, 8, 15, 22
Meeting time: Mondays, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. (CST), via Zoom
In 2021, it has become more widely accepted that racism is embedded in all of our social institutions, and within all of us, referred to by Layton (2006) as “normative unconscious.” (Norms are socialized into us so early and are so insidious that we simply accept this as how things are.) Without socially locating ourselves, we are more likely to take our perspective as a given, rendering invisible and denying the privilege of the other’s perspective (Altman, 2000).
From an interpersonal psychoanalytic perspective, this course will consider the patient within the context of the larger socio-political world. We will examine attitudes, values, and prejudices we all bring into the intersubjective space of therapy, while encouraging an understanding of our patients through their social locations of class, race, and ethnicity. By accepting our unwitting participation in societal and clinical processes, as psychoanalytic clinicians we can develop a deeper awareness of our own socio-cultural identities, and a better understanding of our unconscious complicity in the “othering” that oftentimes occurs within our own treatments.
We will review psychoanalytic writings and other published work on race and ethnicity. Racialized dynamics such as cultural/ethnic transference and countertransference, disavowed or dissociated racial/ethnic self-states, and the collusion or accommodating of internalized oppressive identifications will be considered in our work within cross culture/color, and within white, dyads. The mixed-race person who may have conflicting constructions of self will also be addressed.
We will explore racialized enactments and enactments of elitism, by using the psychoanalytic perspective that working with a problem requires one to work from within the problem. We will address identification with the oppressor and the attendant guilt that can often foreclose further analytic exploration, as well as how guilt avoidance may hamper our inquiry and curiosity at the cost of true affective engagement.
By forgoing cultural assumptions and examining exact meaning and implication for each individual’s ethnic/racial subjectivity, we increase our patients’ opportunities for self-coherence in the creation of their evolving narratives and shifting identities. Stern’s ideas (2009) on having a witness to our life stories and our very human need to believe that we are “known by the other,” feels most fitting for this psychoanalytic exploration of the racial/ethnic experience lived in America.
Those choosing to take this course should come with a desire to use a cultural lens as a means of better understanding what we co-create with our patients as intersubjective beings engaged in the process of effecting change. In doing so, participating clinicians can also contribute to the process of deconstructing oppressive systems within the treatment relationship and beyond.
Susan Rios, M.S., LCSW is Visiting Faculty at the Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis (CPP) and a psychoanalyst in private practice in New York City. She received her M.S. from Columbia University, and her post-graduate training at the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis (MIP). She is a training and supervising analyst, and the candidate group-process facilitator at MIP’s One Year Program: Psychoanalysis and the Sociopolitical World. She is past consultant to the MIP Committee on Race and Ethnicity (CORE), and periodic co-leader and active member-participant in CORE’s biweekly Dialogues meetings since its inception in June 2020. Dialogues, a unique ongoing and open process group, was designed by CORE to provide member psychoanalysts the opportunity and experience of having difficult cross-race conversations on individual and systemic racism in an effort to facilitate institutional change. In her practice, Susan provides individual, couples, and group psychotherapy/psychoanalysis, clinical supervision and organizational consultation. Additionally, she offers individual and group psychotherapy and supervision with a specific focus on biracial/mixed-race dynamics