VAPS 2019 Biennial Ethics Conference: Understanding Violence, American Exceptionalism, and the Current Political Crisis: The Contribution of a Psychoanalytic Ethic

The Vermont Association for Psychoanalytic Studies (VAPS)

Presents its Biennial Ethics Conference with

Frank Summers, Ph.D.

Understanding Violence, American Exceptionalism, and the Current Political Crisis:

The Contribution of a Psychoanalytic Ethic

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

Davis Auditorium, at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont

Burlington, Vermont

9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The United States is objectively one of the most violent countries in the world as measured by homicide rates.  In addition, the prevalence of violent imagery in news and entertainment media, rate of gun ownership and militarization express the appeal of violence in American society. How does psychoanalysis contribute to our understanding of the American relationship to violence and the dynamics that perpetuate it, and how does a psychoanalytic ethic help to shape our response as mental health professionals?

In this conference renowned psychoanalyst Frank Summers, Ph.D. will provide insight into the historical roots of American exceptionalism and its role in the glorification of violence.  The presentation will provide a theoretical framework for understanding pathological narcissism, grandiosity, and other defenses that promote and justify the control of the “other” though violence. Dr. Summers will present an emerging psychoanalytic ethic that incorporates a developmental theory of subjectivity and establishes ethical conduct in the experience of mutual empathic recognition.  

Throughout the day we will explore the dynamic relationship among individual, organizational, and state-sponsored violence, and we will examine what a psychoanalytic vision of ethical conduct requires of us in an era of deepening concern about violence and hatred in American society.  

About the Presenter:

Dr. Summers is a professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis.  He is the former president of Psychoanalysis for Social Responsibility (Section IX of APA Division 39), and led work to confront the APA’s complicity in psychologists’ involvement in torture of detainees. His extensive publications and presentations include many contributions that deal with social issues, including violence, torture, professional ethics and the misuse of psychology. He serves as a member of the editorial board of Psychoanalytic Psychologyand as an associate editor of Psychoanalytic Dialogues.  His most recent book, The Psychoanalytic Vision: The Experiencing Subject, Transcendence, and the Therapeutic Process, is the winner of the Gradiva Award for the best psychoanalytic book of 2013. He maintains a practice in psychoanalytic therapy and psychoanalysis in Chicago, Illinois.


Participants will be able to:  

1.    Describe key differences between classical and contemporary psychoanalytic theory of moral/ethical development and their clinical implications. 

2.    Explain the relationship between empathic recognition of the other and the development of the self from the standpoint of developmental theory and its relationship to ethical development.

3.    Discuss why ethical breaches of conduct erode the integrity of the self through disavowal.

4.    Identify common defenses that are deployed as a consequence of ethical transgressions and methods of working with these defenses and symptomatic expressions.

5.    Describe the relationship between grandiosity, disintegration anxiety, and the need to control the “other” in clinical situations and in society at large.

6.    Describe the concept of American exceptionalismand the consequences of it becoming associated with military strength in our national identity.

7.    Apply the concept of the “moral third” to problems in therapeutic and public dialogue. 

Pending Application made for 6 CEU for Psychologists, Social Workers, and Licensed Mental Health Counselors.

Please see our attached brochure more details on scheduling for this engaging day!