Bridging the gulf between research and clinical practice: A special series for DIVISION/Review

A new column is being introduced in this issue of Division/Review. It will be a regular feature of the journal and present interviews and discussion regarding the relationship between research and clinical practice

By Steven D. Axelrod and Sherwood Waldron

Our profession and its reputation depend on the vital engagement between psychoanalytic practice and research. We believe that over the past 50 years clinical research has meaningfully aided practice, often in ways we take for granted. However, internecine battles and a lack of mutual understanding between researchers and clinicians have obscured the fact that many good clinicians are influenced by research. The newly constituted Division 39 Research Committee, in collaboration with D/R, has initiated this regular series with two related aims in mind: first, to show in practical terms how leading clinicians and researchers use important research findings to inform practice; and second, to take the engagement between psychoanalytic research and practice to the next level, where it can have a vital impact on our membership and our profession.

Our format for this series will be to interview prominent clinicians and researchers about the ways in which research findings have influenced their clinical work. Prior to the actual interview, we will ask our “subjects” which research findings have made a difference in how they work with patients, and if we are not familiar with the research we will review the findings. In the interview itself we will discuss why they thought these findings were important and how they affected their practices, with illustrative clinical vignettes. We will also ask our “subjects” for their reflections on and suggestions for the integration of research and practice.

We want to emphasize again that our goal will be to demonstrate that research has real clinical utility. We will focus not on the “truth” of these findings per se or even their place in the overall research canon, but rather on their usefulness—our major interest will be the subjective experience of the working psychoanalytic clinician. If ours is an “impossible profession,” then anything that helps and guides the clinician is of value.

Our first interview is with Dr. Nancy McWilliams. Nancy is familiar to many readers as a past president of Division 39 as well the author of a number of important, widely read books on psychoanalysis, including Psychoanalytic Diagnosis, Psychoanalytic Case Formulation, and Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: A Practitioner’s Guide. She is on the faculty of the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology of Rutgers University and has a private practice in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in Flemington, New Jersey. Nancy is a particularly good choice to initiate the series because her writings are so informative, not only about psychoanalytic diagnosis but also about specific aspects of treatment of individuals suffering from the spectrum of emotional difficulties to be found in practice.

About the Authors

Steve Axelrod, PhD, practices psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as organizational consultation in New York City. He is a graduate of the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. Steve initiated the Practice Survey in 2008, has been active in a number of division-wide efforts to advance the profession, and is a Contributing Editor to DIVISION/Review.

Sherwood Waldron is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst from New York, who fi rst studied outcomes of childhood neurosis into adult life with a control group 40 years ago. He formed the Psychoanalytic Research Consortium (PRC) as a vehicle for the collection, safeguarding, and distribution of audiorecorded psychoanalyses and psychotherapies. Dr. Waldron and his group have developed the Analytic Process Scales, new scoring methods to use the Shedler Westen Assessment Procedures to evaluate change, and Dynamic Interaction Scales to assess relational aspects of treatments.