President's column

A review of section activity in 2012 and the agenda for 2013.

By Nancy Hollander, PhD

This is the Section’s first newsletter for 2013, and I’d like to begin by wishing you all a very good new year. As will be clear from this issue’s thematic focus and my report, Section IX and its members continue to be engaged in issues and challenges that bring psychoanalytically-informed perspectives and interventions to psychological experience in the social world.

In this regard, many of our members were active during the recent national election in a variety of ways that reflected our commitment to progressive positions on a range of human rights and class, racial and gendered equity struggles.

Within the APA itself, there have been repeated attempts to expand representation of minority constituents in the association and to include issues reflective of and important to our increasingly diverse society. The latest effort toward this end was an attempt to secure an amendment to the association’s bylaws that would seat the four ethnic minority psychological associations (EMPAs) on the Council of Representatives. The proposed amendment was defeated in December 2012, falling just short of the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass. Section IX has supported expanded ethnic minority representation at all levels of governance, and to this end, individual board members are nominating three members of the Multicultural Committee, Kris Yi, Leilani Crane, Usha Tummala-Narra, for the Member -at -Large positions on the Division 39 Board. We hope that at least at the Division level, we can increase the diversity of the membership of the Board and thus its ability to address the interests and needs of our increasingly heterogeneous society.

In my last President’s Column, I reported on the petition circulated by the Section IX Board to collect signatures from Section IX members in support of the demands of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology that APA correct its noncompliance and failure to execute the 2008 membership referendum that, with specified exceptions, prohibits psychologists from working in detention settings that violate international conventions against torture. The Coalition’s position was publicly criticized in a letter authored by Jeffry Youngren on behalf of the Board of Section 42 (Psychologists in Independent Practice), copies of which were sent to the APA board and all APA Divisions. Youngren’s letter, as well as the Coalition’s gracious, principled and informative response are both available for your perusal on the website of Coalition for an Ethical Psychology. The latter is well worth reading as a reminder of the history and substance of the Section IX-supported struggle to encourage accountability and reform within the APA regarding psychological ethics in national security settings. Frank Summers reports further on this matter in his article beginning on page 5.

Several Section IX Board members have been engaged in programs that reflect the Section’s commitment to socially-responsible principles; I would like to briefly describe their creative work. Jane Hassinger is Chair of Section IX’s Women’s Committee, which we renamed the Gender and Sexualities Committee in order to place women’s issues within the wider lens of gender and sexualities. She has been involved in a community project in the Democratic Republic of Congo that is a collaboration with Dr. Denis Mukwege at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC. Panzi is the main site providing health and mental health care for survivors of rape in the Congo. Rape is a central tactic in the unofficial war over the control of territory and precious natural resources in Southeastern DRC. The numbers of assaults have been staggering and continue to rise. Dr. Mukwege asked Hassinger’s team for assistance with the design and training for mental health and community-reentry services for survivors. See a recent blog post from Nicholas Kristof on Mukwege, his work, and the recent assassination attempt on his life.

Another Section IX member and co-editor of this newsletter, Ghislaine Boulanger, has been actively engaged in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina in a project aimed at documenting the experiences of local clinicians during the years of the storm’s most intense psychological toll and placing these needs and experiences in a psychoanalytic framework. The program has given support to local mental health providers as they worked through the traumatic impact of Katrina that they, as well as the populations they serve, suffered. The website carries a description of the project and advice to clinicians in other communities struck by disaster. Two papers describing this project will be published in the January-February 2013 issue of Psychoanalytic Dialogues. “Reports from the Front” contains four first person accounts by area clinicians with an introduction by Boulanger, who describes the circumstances that led the project. Her article, “Fearful Symmetry “ is her account of the psychodynamics of shared trauma. In addition, Shared Trauma, a 17 minute documentary made for clinicians with interviews from mental health professionals in New Orleans is available free of charge, details can be found on the website.

Our annual panel at Division 39 is one creative endeavor we offer each year to share with colleagues what a socially responsible psychoanalysis looks like. Last year we organized a lively presentation by and exchange with Bryant Welch about the psychological meanings of problematic developments in our society and how to understand and respond to the regressive social forces that are reflected within our professional organization. This year our invited panel follows a different format, in which a group of psychoanalysts, each through a unique social psychoanalytic lens, will respond to an interlocutor’s questions about the psychological meanings of current social and political crises and how they impact different constituencies given issues of class, ethnicity and gender(s). The panel is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, 1-2:50 pm in the Arlington Room of the Park Plaza hotel. Later that same day, Section IX will hold a joint reception with the Multicultural Concerns Committee, Sexual and Gender Identities Committee, and Sections II (Childhood and Adolescence) and III (Women, Gender and Psychoanalysis). We hope to see you all at these two exciting events.

One very important form of activism is to join Section IX and if you are already a member, to renew your membership!! In case you need reminding, a membership renewal form was emailed to all current members on January 8. Our effectiveness depends on your active support and engagement with our work. On a final note, I want to encourage those of you among our Section members who are involved in community projects to use the Section IX list serve to share your experiences with colleagues. We find your endeavors exciting to know about and inspirational to our own work.