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Mindful Medicine: Columbia Psychoanalytic Center, 55 and Going Strong

By Peter Wortsman

Columbia Psychoanalytic Center founders, from left, are Nolan D.C. Lewis, George Daniels, Abram Kardiner, and Sandor Rado
Columbia Psychoanalytic Center founders, from left, are Nolan D.C. Lewis, George Daniels, Abram Kardiner, and Sandor Rado
Since its creation in 1944 as the first university-based, medical school-centered psychoanalytic training program in the country, the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research has produced, among its many graduates, two medical school deans, two directors of the National Institute of Mental Health, two New York state commissioners of mental health, three directors of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, five presidents of the American Psychiatric Association, 16 departmental chairmen of psychiatry, and countless other leaders in the field. Its graduates and faculty have authored major scientific and cultural studies, including “The Talking Cure: The Science Behind Psychotherapy,” by Susan C. Vaughan’89/’97PSY.

The center’s dynamic new director, Robert A. Glick’66/’78PSY, clinical professor of psychiatry at P&S, is very optimistic about the future of the center and of psychoanalysis. Taking the reins in the summer of 1997 from his distinguished predecessor, Roger MacKinnon’50/’59PSY, Dr. Glick, a longtime member of the faculty, has rededicated the center to its tradition of research. To that end, he has undertaken a major development effort to secure the center’s financial future in the ever-changing tides of American medicine.

The Ferment of Interdisciplinary Inquiry

When Sandor Rado, the center’s first director, an early, albeit critical, proponent of Freudian theory, split with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, he sought the broad-based intellectual ferment of a major university and medical school to pursue his scientific research into the relation of the mind, brain, and body. At Columbia, he joined forces with three other like-minded individuals of diverse talents: Nolan D.C. Lewis, then chairman of psychiatry; George Daniels, head of the psychosomatic division at Presbyterian Hospital; and Abram Kardiner, who extended the frontiers of psychoanalytic research to encompass anthropology and the study of social systems. Together they founded the Columbia University Psychoanalytic and Psychosomatic Clinic for Training and Research in the Department of Psychiatry, which was upgraded to an interdepartmental center in 1977.

Other illustrious affiliates of the center have included David Levy, a groundbreaking researcher in child development, who created a Levy Loan Fund to support worthy candidates; and the late Viola Bernard, a founder of Columbia’s Division of Community and Social Psychiatry, who helped broaden the spectrum of psychoanalytic inquiry to include the problems of the poor, particularly minorities. The center also pioneered work on issues related to gender and sexuality, female psychology, and love relations. In the 1970s, former director Ethel Person’67PSY and her colleague Lionel Ovesey challenged ideas about gender identity and sexual stereotypes. More recently, faculty members have participated in founding a rape crisis center.

Robert A. Glick’66/’78PSY, director of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research
Robert A. Glick’66/’78PSY, director of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research
Distinguished graduates include two African-American women of note, Margaret Morgan Lawrence’40/’51PSY, co-founder of the Community Mental Health Center in Rockland County, where she was the first practicing child psychiatrist; and Elizabeth Davis’49/’55PSY, longtime chairwoman of psychiatry at Harlem Hospital. Another notable graduate, Robert Michels’67PSY, a former dean of Cornell medical school, has been a major force in psychiatric education in America. Some 500 graduates, at last count, have made life more livable for innumerable patients and their families around the country.

The legacy of scientific inquiry linking mind and body, the individual and society, psychoanalysis and medicine, continues to thrive at Columbia. While some of Freud’s conclusions are being challenged by revisionist theoreticians, psychoanalysis itself, the science and treatment mode which he and his followers created, has evolved over time and still offers physicians, patients, and researchers in related fields a vital and effective tool to sound the depths of human emotional suffering. To Andrew C. Lotterman’95PSY, assistant clinical professor and lecturer in psychiatry and chairman of the center’s Outreach Committee, “There are certain kinds of information about introspected emotional states reported by patients that are otherwise difficult to get.” A specialist in the treatment of schizophrenics, Dr. Lotterman is the author of “Specific Techniques for the Psychotherapy of Schizophrenic Patients.”

The wide range of current research projects pursued by center faculty includes the infancy and parenting program, begun by Karen Gillmore to study the minute and often undetected interactions between mothers and infants; outcome studies of analytic sessions and the analytic process with the aid of audiotapes and videotapes; pharmacological studies of medication as an adjunct to analysis; and study groups examining the connection between analytic thinking and the cognitive neurosciences.

A major division of the Department of Psychiatry and its psychodynamic teaching arm, the center promotes a heightened awareness of the significance of mental processes, teaching psychiatric residents the essentials of psycho-dynamic strategy and medical students an appreciation of the emotional foundation of the doctor-patient relationship. Affiliated scholars from other university departments learn to apply psychoanalytic thinking to literature, history, art, and the social sciences.

Dedicated to research, education, and treatment, the center’s low-cost psychoanalysis and/or psychoanalytic psychotherapy is open to the general public.

Psychoanalysis, according to Dr. Glick, “promotes insight, understanding, healing, and growth. It is the deepest, most penetrating and candid exploration of the workings of the human mind. My mission,” he says, “is to bring an appreciation of psychoanalysis as it is studied and practiced at Columbia to as many people as possible.”

More information on training and treatment options at the foremost university-based psychoanalytic center is available by calling (212) 927-0112 or visiting the center’s web site: www.nyspi.cpmc.columbia.edu/nyspi/pidpt_ce.htm.

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