Interview with psychoanalyst and american author Nancy McWilliams

American psychoanalyst and author of international scale Nancy McWilliams offered us, at the middle of the month of gifts, the most beautiful present: a Skype interview, a memorable meeting between New Jersey and Bucharest, in which the authenticity of her presence created a perfect balance in our dialogue, between the scientific and the personal areas of her life.

The feeling that we have known one another for years, that one usually gets in a dialogue with the mentors who have no other stake than helping you grow, was so intense that, at the end of the 56 minutes of our interview, my guest – the psychoanalytic psychotherapist and trainer Violeta Mancaș and I would have boarded the plane and headed for New Jersey in order to continue the discussion with Nancy.

Transcription: Adriana Bulz

CREDITS
Due to the importance of the scientific work of the American psychoanalyst and author Nancy McWilliams, the following entities are offered the right to free, full or partial interview, for their online or offline publications:


Romanian Society for Psychoanalysis https://www.srdp.ro/ Insight – Association for promoting theoretical and clinical psychoanalysis https://insight.org.ro/, FROPP – Romanian-Dutch Foundation for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy http://www.fropp.ro/ Acasa.php, Generation Foundation http://www.generatia.ro/2018/ , ACPP-B Association of Psychoanalytic Counseling and Psychotherapy in Bucharest, http://www.acppb.ro/ Romanian Association for Couple Psychoanalysis and Family https://arpcf.ro/ Romanian Association of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy http://www.psihoterapiepsihanalitica.com/ Romanian Association of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy ARPP https://e-psihiatrie.ro/ Romanian association of psychoanalysis of group and family links “Enrique Pichon Riviere” https://www.psihanaliza-de-familie.com/ , Romanian Association for Transactional Analysis ARAT http://arat.ro/
Excepting the already mentioned entities:
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I extend my thanks to Mrs. Ana-Maria Baciu, from „Simion&Baciu” Law Firm. / Facebook Page

Dan Cârlea:


Dear Mrs. Nancy McWilliams, by means of your work, The Psychoanalytical
Diagnosis, you managed to take psychoanalytical meaning beyond the field’s specialty, truly opening up clinical psychoanalysis to therapists of other orientations, as well as to psychiatrists. I would venture to claim that it is hard to find a more effective work in support of psychoanalysis, one that is written for any specialist in mental health issues, without ever forgetting about the essentials in the field of psychoanalysis. Tell us about the impact of your work, The Psychoanalytical Diagnosis, in the USA and in other parts of the world, among the people who are specializing in psychoanalysis as well as among therapists of other orientations.

Dr. Nancy McWilliams:


I originally wrote my first book, Psychoanalytic Diagnosis, back when I was beginning to see what kind of damage the latest edition of the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, would do to a deeper clinical understanding of patients, because they had framed everything, for good reasons, with researchers in mind, to talk about symptomatic categories, and the presence versus absence of different traits for symptoms. And I began to get worried that the traditional understanding of a whole person and the inner life of a whole person was eventually going to be compromised if that’s the way everyone was trained to think diagnostically.

I had been teaching for many years a course at Rutgers University on how to understand patient material, especially in the early sessions, in the first intake session. And I think my students were tired of hearing me complain that there should be a book that talked about how psychoanalytic clinicians thought about psychological suffering, not just trying to put things into preformulated categories. So I think my students could clearly hear me complain and they pushed me to write the book. I wasn’t surprised that it did very well in the United States because I knew there was a need for it.
But then it was translated into several Eastern-European languages, which I had not expected. It’s also been translated into most of the Scandinavian languages, into Farsi, into Portuguese, into Turkish, into Japanese, Chinese…so it’s had very big impact, much more than I ever expected. And then my publisher pressed me to write more and I found it satisfying to write subsequent books.

My position, I think, in the psychoanalytic world has been to try to make psychoanalytic ideas, that I find clinically very useful, useful to other people outside the psychoanalytic community. It’s also been used on the inside of the psychoanalytic community for teaching psychoanalysts in training but my orientation was mostly to people of other orientations, who had not been exposed to psychoanalytical ideas, who thought psychoanalysis was simply putting people on the couch and having them free-associate, and who didn’t understand that it’s a much bigger tradition than that.


Dan Cârlea:


Could you please tell us how you initially approached the field of psychoanalysis and what did your preparation for this field consist in? Who was your mentor in personal analysis?


Dr. Nancy McWilliams:


I discovered psychoanalysis when I was 18 or 19 years old, I was in an American college studying political science, and my faculty advisor suggested that I seemed like a very psychologically-minded person, maybe I would like to do my political theory thesis on Freud’s political theory. And he gave me a copy of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents. I read it, I found it very compelling, I liked Freud’s ideas and I started reading other psychoanalysts that were easy to find at that time. This was about 1965. So Erik Erikson’s work was easy to find…, so were people like Karen Horney, Rollo May, Norman Brown, Herbert Marcuse and some of the more politically-oriented psychoanalists. And I fell in love with the field, especially with the work of Theodor Reik.

What was compelling about his work originally, was that – back in 1965 – he was the first person I ever read who wrote about female psychology as somewhat different from male psychology, but not an inferior version of this psychology. And this was before the research into differences, and sex differences had always been presented as „women deviating from the male norm”. Reik was writing about the strength of women’s experiences in the world, and I felt respected and understood. After graduation, when I married and my husband and I moved to the New York area, I began taking courses at a college there in psychology – I had never studied psychology as an undergraduate –because I had the idea that sitting with people and trying to help them was much more suited to my personality than being a professor of politics. And then I realized that Theodor Reik was still alive and I wrote him a letter asking if he would meet with me and give me advice about this career.

I was excited with the idea of meeting someone who had been close to Freud. And he graciously met with me and I asked him: „What preparations would you suggest for someone who wants to be a psychologist?” He said I must be analyzed. And he offered to analyze me himself but he was very old and I had lost my mother when I was young and I knew that it was a bad idea to sign up with an anlyst who was going to die on me. So I took his recommendation to go the clinic that he had founded in connection with an institute that he had organized when he was a psychologist, in fact the first psychoanalyst to get a psychoanalytical doctoral dissertation accepted. He was the person for whom Freud wrote a defence for a non-physician to become a psychoanalyst. I didn’t know all the politics of this back then, I was twenty-two, twenty-three years old. I went to the institute he founded and I could barely afford to go to someone with experience, I went to the first person that was assigned to me as an analyst and it turned out to be a wonderful combination: my analyst was a very well-respected, kind, thoughtful, flexible man that I felt deeply understood by.

I had begun my own analysis with the idea: well, this is what started the field of psychotherapy, I will do this in the same way in which I studied classical music before popular music, or took Latin before French – I’ll find out what the „old guys did”, then I will go from there. And I entered my analysis simply with the idea that I will learn about myself, I didn’t experience myself as suffering at the time. But I was, in many unconscious ways. And my analysis helped me in completely unforeseen ways – I don’t think my marriage would have survived without it, and I don’t think I would have had children except for it. And the story of that is, I had lost my mother at the age of nine, I had bonded deeply with a step-mother that my father had married when I was eleven. She died too – both of them died of cancer – when I was in college.

And I was very ambitions and I had the conscious belief that if I wanted a career I couldn’t possibly be a mother – it’s just too much. And that was what the culture was telling me at the time as well. But I discovered in analysis, that I had a deep unconscious belief that, if you become a mother – you die. And that was the real source of my thinking that I didn’t want to have children. Once that was more conscious, I started talking to my husband about sharing the work of parenthood, and I didn’t see why I couldn’t have both. So that made a radical difference in my life: I have two lovely daughters, and grandchildren now, and I knew, back in my twenties, that that shift in me was profound. So I went on to get a psychoanalitically-oriented doctoral degree, and I went to the institute my analyst had trained at, and the people who influenced me there were flexible and creative people. It was an institute that was somewhat more open to a range of perspectives than medical institutes were at the time. And I had a very good experience, so I was able to integrate my own experience of having had a very therapeutic analysis with what I was intellectually learning. And it’s been just going on from there… I keep learning and I keep integrating and I keep trying to share what I think I have learned with others.

Dan Cârlea:


Does Nancy Mc Williams consider herself to have been a patient, an
analysand or a beneficiary of didactic analysis?


Dr. Nancy McWilliams:


Oh, yes, I have been all at once! More than once. I had my analaysis originally in my twenties, for four and a half years… When I had my second daughter, I was running into some challenges of parenthood that had not come up in my first analysis, and I went back into treatment with a different analyst because my first analyst had died. It was a woman, whom I saw once a week, on the couch, for about four years. She was of a different theoretical orientation , she was more kleinian – my first analyst was more freudian. She helped me enormously. And then, maybe a decade later, I went back into treatment also because I had a very personal disapointment, that set a lot of issues for me. My second analyst had retired by that time, so I went to a man who was trained mostly in the self-psychology tradition, and he was also very helpful. So I had three very helpful psychotherapists.


Dan Cârlea:


If you could turn back in time to that Nancy who was just a student of
psychoanalysis, but keep your present–day experience, what advice
would you have to offer her?


Dr. Nancy McWilliams:


That is a very interesting question! I had such an uncomplicated positive experience in my analytic training, that I am not sure If I would advise myself to do anything differently. The only problem in my training came when I presented my final case for graduation. I do not think I appreciated – because I had had such open-minded, flexible supervisors and teachers – I did not anticipate the rigid ideas about what was psychoanalysis and what was not of some of the people on the committee that examined me. Originally, they had not been happy with my presentation. I had been a very successful student at the institute. But I had been somewhat flexible with my patient and they felt that that wasn’t really psychoanalysis.

I appealed the decision and the committee overturned their decision to accept my graduation with some conditions. So that was the only problem I ran into, and I think that came from a kind of naivité about certain approaches to psychoanalysis that I simply hadn’t run into yet. But I am glad that I didn’t run into them because I think I read Freud as a person who was very flexible, thoughtful, self-critical…I was never trained from the perspective of „there are unbreakable rules of psychoanalitic technique and you didn’t do it quite right”. I was never trained in that frame of mind but I have many colleagues who were. In fact, the relational movement in psychoanalysis really arose from people who had very rigid analysts, who wouldn’t admit their own part in whatever happened in the therapeutic dyad, and it damaged or failed to help some people and they set out to correct the field. But I didn’t have the kind of background that they were trying to correct.


Dan Cârlea:


Could you please tell us about the evolution of psychopathology, about
the issues present in our practice these days, by contrast with the
former generations of patients, more or less further away in time, and
especially about the most frequent causes of the difficulties our
contemporary patients encounter.


Dr. Nancy McWilliams:


That’s a very big question and I am not sure I am the best person to try to answer it, because I think the answers are very sociological and political and historical. But…therapists have been seeing over the course of almost five decades now that I have been in the field, a shift in what the patients are suffering from. There are more problems with self-esteem, so there is more narcissistic pathology that is not surprising in a mass global culture where people don’t feel very important, they are suffering a lot of anxiety about the state of the world, with climate change and nuclear posturing, they have a lot of anxiety… The speed of change itself is hard on young people especially.

When I was first practising in 1972 as a student, I had a patient who was a self-cutter and many of my colleagues had never seen this before. Many misunderstood her as suicidal. And now, self-cutting is common to the point of there being websites for people who cut themselves because of stress, who exchange ideas about how to do it more effectively. And therapists are overwhelmed with patients that make this kind of self-damaging efforts, as I understand it, to feel alive, to feel the pain, to see the blood, to feel real. That changed enormously. The adolescent suicide rate has climbed upwards over the decades that I practiced. And that can’t be because biologically people aremore vulnerable to suicide. It has to do – I am sure – with the kind of world we have now…

The Internet has been a very mixed blessing. For some goups of people it has reduced their sense of suffering. For the people from the minorities of sexual orientation, for example, they find that there are other people like them, that they have been bullied too, they get strategies for how to deal with this. On the other hand, if you are on Facebook, and someone shames you publicly it’s a very different experience from that if you were part of a small community from before the Internet and some class mate was mean to you. The opportunities to be severely humiliated are plentiful, because of the internet. People have more trouble with separation than they once did, probably because of the economy. In the United States you see what a lot of therapists have been calling „failure to launch” – people who have trouble in leaving their families of origin and establishing their own home and family, for economic reasons mostly. But it’s also because of cell phones making us always be in touch with other people, it’s harder for people to have a sense of being on their own and not be hovered over by parents and feel confident in themselves as a separate person.

So we see more problems with that as well. I do not know how to assess where we are historically, I think, like fish in water, we can’t always see the water, but we have seen a lot of changes in psychopathology: more suicidality, more narcissistic preocupations, more depression about the state of the world and the pressures on the self. Young people were told that they may have to change their jobs six times in their life time, to keep up with the speed of change. They can’t feel the same sense of „I know who I am, I have an identity, a role in society and I can anticipate this through my life-span” – the way people in my generation and earlier could do. So it’s a hard world to be brought into these days and psychotheraptis can contribute some to solving these problems but mostly they are on a political, sociological and economic level.

Dan Cârlea:

Kernberg „versus” Kohut…I have added the inverted commas with a purpose: it seems that for most psychoanalytical practitioners  the two theoretical visions and, implicitly, the two clinical approaches on narcissistic borderline patients would be in such a contradiction that
they cannot be paired up in our practice. It is as if you would have to choose between being a Kohut-ian or a Kernberg-ian. Maybe, though, fixing the analyst into a frame of vision that contrasts the two parties could be detrimental to the patient, every one of whom might benefit from, at a certain moment, either the Kohut-ian or the Kernberg-ian approach. Please comment leisurely upon these matters (I confess I would like to read one day a paper signed by you on this topic.).

Dr. Nancy McWilliams:

I chose to talk a little about this in my Diagnosis book. It’s been my experience that most therapists have some patients that they see very well described by Kernberg, are very responsive to his approach, and some patients who are much better candidates for Kohut’s approach. And that’s been my experience, as well… Steven Mitchell wrote a little bit about trying to integrate the two approaches, and what he put emphasis on was that narcissistic patients are very difficult but the therapist has to remember that this is the patient’s way of trying to relate to you. You may feel you are unrelated, you may feel you are emptily idealized or devalued, but this is the best they can do to try to get in a relationship with you and if you get that you will try to have some flexibility about which approach to apply when. I know Kernberg fairly well and I know Kohut only through his writing, a little bit through his son, who is someone I’ve been coming to know lately. They seem to have had very different temperaments. For example, Kernberg is kind of allergical to being idealized, he loves to have a friendly argument about psychological theory and he doesn’t take it personally at all if you disagree with him or tell him he has written something badly or he is inconsistent.

He is interested in that…So, I think that is a rather different temperament from Kohut who,  from everything, I have been told about him was a very kind man, as Kernberg is, but also kind of liked being idealized. So, as a person, he found it easier to just let the idealization play out slowly. They were dealing with different kinds of patients. Kohut was working mostly with candidates in analytic institutes who tended to idealize him. Kernberg was working with borderline-level people in psychiatric hospitals, who would tend to devalue him very aggressively. So these are very different kinds of patients even though they all have profound narcissistic issues. So the combination of their different temperaments and the different patients they were trying to address accounts for some of their differences. I’m in sympathy with Kernberg’s critique of Kohut, which is: if all you do is empathically resonate with and deal with ruptures and repairs, the patient’s self-esteem often improves a lot but it doesn’t always help them in their relationships with other people.

At the same time, I am sympathetic with Kohut’s stance that if you challenge a narcissistically preoccupied person in any way that they think of as unempathic, they can’t hear it, they will feel criticized. I actually watched videos of Kernberg working, he is extremely respectful and when he challenges he does it in a way as to always ask the patient: “Can we agree that this is our problem?”. That doesn’t always come through in his writings. So I think all of us as therapists, have to integrate our temperament, the kind of patient population we have and the theoretical possibilities for understanding this. And technical rigidity is an enemy to helping people psychologically. I think both men were pretty flexible, even though their writings are held up as so radically different from each other.

Dan Cârlea:

Both your generation and mine were formed before the Internet age, with its good and bad aspects. Due to the Internet we can now have easy access to publications, papers etc. yet this may lead to a less profound involvement in „deep” research, like that in the libraries.
Students risk contenting themselves with a „fast food” type of understanding and maybe, in the future, we will have whole generations of psychoanalysts who have read next to nothing from Freud or other classics but who, using only a few excellent „Readers’ Digest”
sources, will get to a level of understanding which will allow them access a sum of partial truths, „good enough” for a mediocre-type practice. Please comment upon these issues, mainly from the perspective of a professor.

Dr. Nancy McWilliams:

I am not sure that will happen. Maybe my students are particularly devoted to learning and determined to do as much as possible, but I find that my students still like books and are still grateful for understanding where ideas come from. So I still have hope for people learning psychotherapy that they want to learn in depth. I think it comes from therapists that there is a tendency towards superficiality.

I think those pressures come from insurance companies and governments that are trying to save money and insist that psychotherapy is just easy to do if you know the symptoms and you do these simple technical interventions. That suits the interests of people who want to believe that psychotherapy is not difficult, does not take time, does not involve deep affective areas of experience. And I don’t think it comes from students who always, in my experience, they want to be therapists, they have the temperament that wants to learn as deeply as possible, both in contemporary research and the classical ideas. And I think that goes across orientations. My CBT students read Aaron Beck’s original writing. And Aaron Beck was trained as a psychoanalyst originally. So, if they get the sense of the origins of the CBT movement they are not content with just the Internet solutions to problems. So the problem is that the surrounding culture wants to oversimplify and bureaucratize psychotherapy. I think books will still be valuable.

Dan Cârlea:

Another significant aspect is that of the psychoanalyst’s neutrality, in the context of the Internet. 15-20 years ago, a patient would come to the cabinet following somebody’s recommendation and there he would meet a totally unknown person, a whole new projection space. Nowadays, certain analysts chose to display online a part of their personality, political and social opinion, revealing their likes and dislikes. Under the circumstances, can we still talk of psychoanalysis, neutrality, probing the patient’s unconscious, or is this just positive relationing, based on affinities and with an approximate curing value?

Dr. Nancy McWilliams:

That’s a very interesting question. Surely, we can’t assume that we’re invisible to the patient. I don’t think we ever were. As the relational community has noted, patients can tell a lot about you from your tone of voice, your office, your phone message, anything you have written that they can learn about you. I don’t think we were ever a “blank screen”, the idea that you were supposed to be totally unknown by the patient is a perversion of psychoanalyst ideas. You don’t find the phrase “blank screen” anywhere in Freud’s writing. He talked about neutrality, yes, but he meant something pretty specific.

He meant that you don’t join up with the patients in either their ego or superego, that is you try to take a neutral stance, try to hear all parts of the patient. He was not invisible to his patients and he didn’t expect to be… And that was kind of a mid-century, 20th century conceit of certain kinds of psychoanalysts, that they could be sterile, and it had to do with the medical community, their feeling that they had to demonstrate that psychoanalysis was a procedure that was as sterile and precise as surgery for example. And Freud had once used a surgical analogy, when he was trying to talk his male colleagues out of having sexual relationships with their patients, he talked about how important it was to be neutral and abstinent, and that became an ideal that I don’t think really represents what Freud was all about. It is a danger in psychoanalysis, given the Internet, that people go only to like-minded analysts, and they all agree, and that involves a kind of splitting and an insufficient exploration of the parts of the self that would come out if the two parties were more diverse.

But I think not even that is entirely new. It was important to me in 1969 when I started my analysis, that my analyst was respectful of my political views. I didn’t feel I could open up to somebody who wasn’t and I kind of put pressure on him to tell me where he stood and I even read a few things about him that reassured me that I could talk safely and he wouldn’t pathologize me. So even back then the blank screen wasn’t so blank. In my experience, people don’t come to me thinking I’m a completely unknown quantity, they usually have Googled me. They don’t always know about my reputation, and I like it when they don’t because then it feels more natural as a relationship. But we’re findable on Google, and I find that anything they find out about me is something I can work with anyway. You can work with the patient’s not knowing and you can also work with the patient’s knowing – what fears do they have, given what they know. Everything goes into the transference.

Dan Cârlea:

You are a professor, a mentor and so please recommend us a list of indispensable works, from your point of view, which constitute a solid basis for young persons training themselves to become psychoanalysts. An essential minimum. A sort of „Nancy’s Shortlist” library that students may set up for themselves at home and embark upon their deep study of this complex field, instead of reading on the run and turning into a therapist with great gaps in understanding the case studies in their practice.

Dr. Nancy McWilliams:

I feel strongly about the value of reading primary sources. So I would recommend a few things by Freud. „The Interpretation of Dreams” would be the first thing I would recommend that people read, because it shows Freud at the very beginning of figuring out his ideas, and you get a sense of his ongoing, powerful curiosity about things and you see the origins of psychoanalysis there. I would also recommend his papers on technique, because often people have the opinion that Freud was very inflexible and if you read those papers you find that he is very attuned to how other people might do it differently. The only problem with those papers is that, for the current sensibility, he sounds very patriarchal. He is clearly writing only for other men. When he talks about the importance of keeping sexual boundaries he has a tone of: “These women will try to seduce you, don’t fall into their trap…”. The tone is patriarchal. If you can forgive him for that and appreciate that he was trying to protect the relationship and the women, I think you can forgive him that and if you approach any of his articles, books, chapters with the attitude of trying to empathize with the problems the author was trying to solve rather than critique right away, then you will learn a lot more.

„The Psychopathology of Everyday Life” is a good thing to start with, and finally I think Mourning and Melancholia would be my favorite Freud article. It shows the origins of the object-relations movement in Freud’s thinking. I love Melanie Klein but she is difficult to read. So Freud would be among my top picks. I love Melanie Klein but she is difficult and it takes a long time to really understand her. But from her writings I would say „Love, Guilt and Reparation” and „Envy and Gratitude” as being the best. Winnicott is much easier to read, just about anything by him would be valuable to students. Guntrip would be also very readable, I love his book on schizoid phenomena, a real classic and people don’t know that work anymore. I think it is called „Schizoid Phenomena, Object Relations and the Self”. Michael Balint – „The Basic Fault”, would be in my top group. I love the work of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, „Principles of Intensive
Psychotherapy ” it is a wonderful book. As I was saying, I love the work of Theodor Reik, and I originally responded to his work on sex differences. But „Listening with the Third Ear” is a profoundly important psychoanalitical book, which is not so much read anymore. It anticipated the relational movement with about 40 years, by his intuitive understanding of technique and his assumptions about countertransference. Heinrich Racker’s book, on „Transferance and Countertransferance” is a very important book.

Kernberg is difficult to read, he sounds like who he is, that is a German-speaking person whose family was uprooted to a Spanish speaking country and who is writing in English, so in a third language. And in his early work he was not well edited. If I were to identify one of his formative works, I think it would be his 1984 book, which I think is called „Severe Personality Disorders”, that would be the best introduction to Kernberg. Kohut is almost also impossible to read, I like assigning people really seminal books, and I think ”The Psychology
of the Self” would be an important book to read.

For secondary sources, I think the best book on summarizing theoretical orientations would be Stephen Mitchell and Margaret Black – „Freud and Beyond: A History of Modern Psychoanalytic Thought”. It’s a very nice overview of psychoanalytical ideas. In the relational movement, writing by a Philip Bromberg I think is important, and also Mitchell and Greenberg’s – „Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory”  – 1983 book is critical to read.

Thomas Ogden’s work speaks very profoundly to students and he is a very good writer. Christopher Bollas – except for his book on hysteria which I think is very un-empathic. I like his early writing. On people with dissociative and traumatic psychologies, I think the book that Jody Messler Davies and Mary Gail Frawley  „Treating The Adult Survivor Of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Psychoanalytic Perspective” on adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse is a really fine book.

On borderline psychologies, I like the work of Russell  Meares, he is less well known, he is an Australian. The recent book of Clara Mucci – „Borderline Bodies: Affect Regulation Therapy for Personality Disorders”  is a wonderful integration of psychoanalitical ideas, especially Kernbergian ideas, with contemporary neuroscience – it is called „Borderline Bodies”. It is a wonderful contemporary integration. I am sure I am leaving out many important people…

I love Clara Thompson’s work and she can write, for easy translation. Charles Brenner’s work is very clear, it’s a little bit rigid but his early writing on the various anxieties of childhood is particularly clear. And those are very important contributions. Glen Gabbard is an integrationist, whose book on psychotherapy is excellent. I like the work of Donnel B. Stern on unformulated experience –  „Unformulated Experience: From Dissociation to Imagination in Psychoanalysis” -, I like Karen Maroda’s work on transference and countrertransference –  „The Power of Countertransference: Innovations in Analytic Technique”.

For a really good book for the students to understand how psychoanalysis translates from theory into practice is Deborah Luepnitz’s –  „Hedgehogs love – the story of psychological intimacy”  – book called Schopenhauer’s Porcupines. That is a book on five cases that she treated, one is a child, one is a couple, there are people with diverse backgrounds and diverse problems. Deborah’s training is in Lacanian psychoanalysis and Klein and Winnicott. And she shows how to have a theoretical undestanding of these very different cases, none of which were treated traditionally on the couch but all of which were treated in a very disciplined psychoanalytical way. So my students’ eyes are opened by that book, about how psychoanalysis is actually practiced, how we are always carrying the theory lightly.

Dan Cârlea:

It is not easy to be one of Nancy McWilliam’s students! [laughter] What are you research plans for the future?

Dr. Nancy McWilliams:

I am not a researcher. I haven’t done any research since my master’s thesis in 1973. I am a scholar and my university is very proud of my scholarship but if I had to do ongoing research I could never have been a fully-immersed clinician, and learned as much as I know about how to be a therapist. I am still doing scholarly work. My current project is a book on psychoanalytic supervision. I find there is a lot of interest these days in training people how to better supervise. The books that purport to do this try to teach techniques of supervision or frame it as a skills training. And I think psychoanalytic supervision is more complex than that, is much more about personal development and the relational development between the supervisor and the supervisee. It’s about much more than skills training so I’m trying to capture that. I have a contract with my usual publisher Guilford Press, they are expecting a book next September, which means that, if I meet the deadline and I expect to, it should be out in the spring of 2021.


Dan Cârlea:

Thank you! Happy New Year!

Dr. Nancy McWilliams:

Happy New Year!