Our post-graduate track at TA university, Self Psychology and the Therapeutic Act, was founded in 2001 by Raanan Kulka and a group of colleagues. It is based on four years of courses and supervision groups , suitable for mental health workers with at least ten years of experience and graduates of the core programs in psychotherapy.
The program is part of the Psychotherapy Program at the Sackler Medical School, Tel Aviv University. We are grateful to the Medical School, which has supported the program from its inception and provides a facilitating environment. In the past the Psychotherapy Program offered short courses in particular schools of psychoanalytic thought. Thanks to Raanan Kulka’s initiative, these modular courses were gathered together into a three year track, and later, a four year track of courses of post graduate studies. This model inspired the development of other tracks and today there are six different tracks of post graduate studies with a psychoanalytic orientation within in the Medical School. These tracks promote and enhance advanced learning of psychoanalytic theories within the university.
The courses in the Self Psychology track are geared to give full exposure to the study of subjectivity. We regard subjectivity as a constitutive element in human nature and its recognition is a fundamental component of empathy. This study of subjectivity aims to help students crystallize their identities as Self Psychologists and promote the ideals of Self Psychology.
The team of teachers and supervisors, all of them with a psychoanalytic orientation, and many psychoanalysts, highly value the ethical ideals that inspire the training: We are focused on cultivating a compassionate attitude towards patients and toward others generally. The track courses aim to strengthen students’ empathic capability, encourage them to take a position of responsibility for the suffering of others and expand their own self experience. We believe that our function as Selfobjects goes beyond the individual to a sense of shared concern for the society as a whole (Mann, 2015).
The track includes theoretical courses, seminars and supervision in small groups of three students.
The following is an example of the curriculum:
First year: The Becoming of the Self, Fluctuations of Narcissism, The Emphatic Dance between Parent and Child.
Second year: How does analysis cure? Self- object transferences, Kohut and Winnicott.
Third year: Transformation of Aggression, Trauma and Dissociation, Kohut and Bion.
Fourth year: Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Self Psychology, Drives and Creativity, Empathy and Ethics.
We also hold a monthly clinical seminar led by Raanan Kulka and myself. There is a tradition that other supervisors and teachers in the track participate in this seminar so that we create an open dialogue between students, teachers and supervisors. This seminar is an important educational experience for the students, with mutual cultivation of ideas, ideals and shared creativity. The special atmosphere that we cultivate in the group illustrates how principles of Self Psychology can be applied within professional groups of psychotherapists and psychoanalysts.
Students have to meet certain demands in order to graduate from our program: They must carry out at least three psychotherapies during the period of their studies, present cases in the clinical seminar and write a paper based on theoretical concepts of Self Psychology.We invite graduate students to orally present their graduation papers when we open a new academic year.
We strive to invite guests from abroad from time to time to share their perspectives with us. Jim Fish honored us several times when he came to lecture and supervise. Other guests included Paul and Anna Ornstein, Jacky Gothold, Donna Orange, Jo Lichtenberg, Max Sucharov and Doris Brothers.
In 2016 we had an open conference on Racism, Empathy, the Collapse of Society and Restoration of Human Spirit. Thomas Kohut was our invited guest. This created a special opportunity to hear his thoughts on anti Semitism. The conference included a fascinating dialogue with historian Professor Steven Ascheim, who spoke about the Political Economy of Empathy. This dialogue touched on subjects that Heinz Kohut elaborated on in his interviews with Strozier, such as leadership and courage (or lack of it). The discussion also focused on complexities in society, thus expanding our reference beyond the individual. Also very interesting were Thomas’s musings about his private memories of Heinz.
In the spring of 2019, we plan to have a conference with an emphasis on clinical work. We will focus on different voices in Self Psychology supervision. Donna Orange has agreed to open this event.
Presently we have two classes studying in the track, the seventh and the eighth. In the coming spring we will open for registration of a new entering class of students. I estimate that a total of two hundred students have participated in this training. A prolonged immersion in the Self Psychology theory and practice is an excellent educational experience for those who prefer not to engage in analytic training.
Most graduates of our track join the Israeli Association of Self Psychology and thus maintain their ties with the Self Psychology community. Unfortunately, we have not yet found a good way to engage many graduates in the International Association. We hope that this will occur when “internationals” get to participate more in this association.
I wish to say that it is a major responsibility but also a source of great satisfaction to contribute to the education and training of young professionals and teach Self Psychology as a universal secular ethic.
Gabriela Mann, Ph.D.
Chair, Post-graduate Studies in Self Psychology and the Therapeutic Act, Psychotherapy Program, Sackler Medical school, Tel-Aviv University