Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for the ‘community psychoanalysis’ Category

Re-Posting Because of Today’s LA Times: Father Boyle

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 26, 2014,0,3300815.column#axzz2rYqlcmp4

Previous LA Times….,0,5754852.column

Father Gregory Boyle, a jesuit priest, , and reminds me of my earlier post Father Boyle knew intuitively that when gang members can find an alternative sense of belonging they can find a new way to be in the world. He proves, through his life’s work, the value of attachment. He invests emotional energy in “kids” who have never “experienced dignity before.” By dignity, he means that when one begins to respect the individuality of these gang members, then the adolescent can change their lives and contribute to society. He gives them work skills and in so doing he proves to the ex-gang members that they have hope to make their lives better. In my mind, he re-parents these young adults such that these youngsters can “navigate the treacherous waters of their lives.” As Father Boyle says “people say I give them a second chance, but I say, it is really a first chance.” “Gang members are coming from a place of despair” he says. Without formal mental health training, Father Boyle recognizes the essential need to have a family that instills hope in the future. He teaches coping skills, parenting skills, and responsibility such that they can deal with the challenges of their world. His work inspires therapists to work on a one on one basis to change lives, by believing in their client, such that the client can eventually change course and live in the world in a new way. Inspiring.

Posted in Adolescence, Aggression, Anger, Attachment, Belonging, community psychoanalysis, gangs, Musings | 8 Comments »

Community Psychoanalysis

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 2, 2010


Helping the community is a challenge for all mental health professionals. Many of my colleagues wonder how we can join forces with community organizations to help the underserved. Our psychoanalytic skills are useful in one to one sessions, but on a broader level, they might also be useful to community mental health clinics, schools, and social service agencies. Father Boyle,, is my inspiration. Developing relationships with people who have limited resources can be a game changer in their lives. Understanding the value of a therapeutic relationship can, theoretically, and practically in the case of Father Boyle, have a huge impact on vulnerable folks. This impact takes the form of giving people hope; people who had none at all. This hope is hope in themselves; the hope to change their own lives. Transformative relationships might be a better term than community psychoanalysis to impart how change happens. Psychoanalysts, as experts in the challenges of therapeutic relationships, are in a unique position to inspire and to teach  volunteers, case workers, and clergy to help the community.

Today’s mental health clinics are focused on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT); a treatment which many say is “evidenced-based,” meaning that there are randomized controlled trials to demonstrate the efficacy. Although CBT is very useful, it does not substitute for the inspiration that a therapeutic relationship provides. Yet, money is tight; government which often hands out the money, wants to put their resources into something that shows efficacy. However, what if nothing demonstrates efficacy? What if CBT demonstrates results, but these results are short-term? Sometimes, intuition has to play a role; even in government funding. People dedicated to helping others, who know how to form a relationship with people in distress,  is a good place to put resources.  Transformative relationships; that is where we need to focus.

Posted in community psychoanalysis, Community Resources, Psychoanalysis | 8 Comments »

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