Early Career Committee Report: July 2012

This year, Division 39 Early Career Committee, will be highlighting early career clinicians' accounts of ways in which psychodynamic perspectives help shape their clinical work. This month, we are excited to have Jennifer Durham-Fowler, a graduate of University of Texas, Austin, and Research Affiliate at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

"You're living the scientist-practitioner dream!" remarked my former graduate school advisor when I described the work I would be doing this year. Indeed, for the past year, I have been working as both a researcher and a therapist, and finding that these two roles, while quite different, often complement one another nicely. My research takes place at the Austen Riggs Center, a small psychiatric hospital that provides psychodynamic treatment to "treatment-resistant" patients in Western Massachusetts. At Riggs I collaborate with staff psychologists and psychiatrists on a variety of research projects, including studies aimed at understanding mental states that contribute to suicide risk, a project assessing changes in metacognition and resilience over the course of treatment, and a qualitative study that seeks to better understand the subjective experiences of patients diagnosed with psychotic disorders. Research at Riggs is very much grounded in clinical work, and it is unusual to attend a lab meeting that does not include associations to current and past patients; for many of the staff at Riggs, the dialogue between research and practice is fluid and ongoing. 

In addition to my work at Riggs, I am post-doctoral fellow in Counseling Services at Bard College at Simon's Rock, a small liberal arts college for adolescents who wish to leave high school after their sophomore or junior year in order to get an early start on college. When I am in the role of therapist, research is rarely at the forefront of my conscious mind; however, there are times when the things I have learned as a researcher make their way into therapy sessions in unexpected ways. A depressed student tells me about the pain of being on the fringe of a social group, and my mind goes to discussions from the Riggs suicide research group about the role of overwhelming painful affect in the context of a thwarted sense of belonging in predicting suicidal and parasuicidal behaviors. Similarly, I may find myself drawing on my current research on metacognition when assessing a patient's ability to observe his own mind and, consequently, where I might begin to intervene clinically. The transition from the role of researcher to that of clinician happens several times a week, and is not always graceful (when seeing my first afternoon patient after a morning of research, it can take a few minutes to clear my mind SPSS datasets); however, playing both roles sharpens my thinking in a way that is personally satisfying, and hopefully beneficial to both my patients and colleagues.

-  Jennifer Durham-Fowler

The Early Career Committee has been working on supporting, connecting, and providing opportunities for engagement in Division 39. Our mentoring subcommittee is focused on creating and expanding mentorship for early career professionals. These include, assistance with publication efforts, becoming a psychoanalytic researcher, working with a local mentor regarding professional development and balancing personal and professional identities. 

This is our first official call for ECP's (Early Career Professionals) who would like a mentor to submit a paper or panel proposal for the Boston 2013 spring meeting. As the submission deadline is September 7, we encourage anyone who is within 7 years post-graduation (or will be by April 2013) to send a brief 1-2 sentence blurb about your submission topic in the coming weeks. Proposal ideas can be emailed to Dana Castellano. The mentorship subcommittee will then match you with a senior analyst/clinician whose interest areas align with yours. We look forward to hearing from you. Please check out the division's website. If you would like to contact our committee with any additional thoughts or ideas, please send emails to our Co-Chairs: Marilyn Charles and Heather-Ayn Indelicato.