A Practical Introduction to Neuropsychoanalysis: clinical implications

Course overview

A Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust workshop in collaboration with the Bloomsbury Neuroscience Group in association with the London Neuropsychoanalysis Group and the Psychotherapy Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Neuropsychoanalysis starts from the assumption that the brain and mind are the same thing, considered from two different observational perspectives (objective and subjective, respectively). This implies that everything we have learnt about the brain has implications for how we conceive the mind, and vice-versa. It is not scientifically acceptable to have two different and incompatible theories about the same part of nature.

In this workshop, the two perspectives are reconciled with each other, and the practical implications for our clinical work as psychoanalysts and psychotherapists are discussed in detail.


Session One

This session discusses how basic psychoanalytic concepts can be translated into basic neuroscientific concepts and vice-versa. Then it focuses on one important respect in which the two sets of concepts cannot be easily translated, because they contradict each other. This contradiction concerns the fact that the part of the brain which performs the functions that Freud called ‘the id’ is not unconscious, as Freud had claimed. In fact, it is the fount of all consciousness.


Session Two

This session focuses on the parts of the brain that correlate with what Freud called ‘the unconscious’ and explains the implications for our understanding of this central psychoanalytic notion that arise from new findings about the functions of these parts of the brain (for example, the finding that the unconscious memory systems do not contain representational images). This culminates in a radical new conceptualization of ‘repression’.


Session Three

This session outlines modern knowledge about the basic drives and instincts of the human brain, which requires substantial modification of Freudian ‘instinct theory’. This knowledge also has many important implications for our understanding (and classification) of various psychopathologies.


Session Four

This clinical lesson draws together the implications that the three innovations introduced have on the clinical practice of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. The emphasis here falls on the implications of these three things: (1) the ‘talking cure’ cannot revolve around dragging the consciousness of words down into the unconscious id, thereby rendering it thinkable, since the id is in fact conscious from the outset; (2) the ‘talking cure’ also cannot revolve around the undoing of repressions for the reason that repressed unconscious memories cannot be recalled in the form of representational images; (3) the aims and mechanisms of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis are reformulated in the light of modern drive and instinct theory.


Sessions 5 and 6

These sessions illustrate all of these clinical implications, especially for technique, with reference to two case presentations by members of the audience, discussed ‘live’ by Mark Solms. We need 2 participants to volunteer to present a case each. This consists of a brief history of the patient and reports of 2 recent sessions. All material needs to be anonymised to comply with regulations on confidentiality. Please contact Dr John Hook hook458@btinternet.com if you would like to present. 

Professor Mark Solms is a psychoanalyst, neuroscientist and author. He was the founder, together with Jaak Panksepp, of the International Neuropsychoanalysis Society, and he is Research Chair of the International Psychoanalytic Association.

New course dates will be posted here in due course. In the meantime, if you would like to be added to the waiting list please contact us at cpdevents@tavi-port.ac.uk 

Day 1

2:00    Welcome

2.10    Theoretical Lessons 1

·         The affective basis of consciousness itself (the conscious id)

·         The unconscious nature of cognition (the unconscious ego)

·         Working memory: the role of consciousness in cognition

3:10    Break

3.30    Session 1 continued

4:30    Questions and discussion

5:00    Close


Day 2

9:30    Theoretical lessons 2

·         Consolidation, automatization and repression (the ‘cognitive’ and ‘dynamic’ unconscious)

·         Reconsolidation (“consciousness arises instead of a memory trace”)

·         Repression and defense (the return of the repressed)

11.30    Break

11.50    Theoretical Lessons 3

·         Life’s problems: a taxonomy of drives, instincts and affects (implications for psychopathology)

12.50   Questions and discussion

1.15     Lunch

2:00     Session 3 continued;

3.00     Clinical Lessons

·         Implications of the conscious id for the ‘talking cure’

·         Why our patients suffer mainly from feelings

·         The meaning of symptoms

·         The actual task of psychoanalytic treatment

·         Countertransference (affective and object-relational dimensions)

·         Why transference interpretation is mutative

·         Why psychoanalytic treatment takes time: ‘working through’

4.00    Break

4.15    Session 4 continued

5.15    Questions and discussion

5:30    Close


Day 3

9.30     Practical Examples 1

·         Clinical presentation 1 (by a workshop participant) and discussion

11.15   Break

11.30   Practical Examples 2

·         Clinical presentation 2 (by a workshop participant) and discussion

1.15     Questions, discussion and feedback

1.30     Close


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