By Nic Klein, MSW, LGSW,
2016-2018 Clinical Fellow at the MPSI Psychotherapy Center
I won’t lie, becoming a psychologist is hard work. The first year is intensively academic, and you are jumping through one hoop after another. Just about the time that you feel like giving up or quitting, you start your therapy practicum and are reminded of why you are doing all this work…for the people, to enter that sacred relationship where the healing occurs. My first choice of practicum was MPSI and by a snap of luck I secured a place training in long term psychodynamic therapy.
So how do I sum up my time at MPSI in a few short paragraphs? I could talk about the Friday seminars, the intensive supervision, the ten-patient caseload, Monday morning group consultation or the wonderful, talented, and dedicated fellows I had the privilege of working with. Though all these aspects made the practicum go well beyond my already high expectations, I think It might be better to talk about a patient, whose identity and recognizable characteristics have been changed for protection.
This person we will call ‘Jesse’ had been physically and emotionally abused since early childhood and came to therapy because of increasing episodes of paranoia and anger. Jesse and I spent months talking about what it was like for her when she was young and how her paranoia made sense given what she had been through. Jesse started talking about our sessions like it was free diving, that she would come in and together we would take a huge breath and dive down into her past and release the things trapped inside of her and let them float to the surface. Jesse soon started coming twice a week, bringing events from her life and eventually her dreams.
Her dreams were terrifying. Often violent, they were more like horror stories and it was clear she was disturbed by them. I think many young psychologists in training would avoid these dreams, keep them at a distance and not explore them as an avenue of healing. This is different for the analytic school and I soon found hidden in these horror stories was profound meaning. I did my best to investigate and interpret these dreams and their message nearly always rang true to Jesse. Within the nightmare was a profound expression of young women attempting to resolve the conflicts of a traumatic youth and a hidden desire to grow beyond these early survival mechanisms into a new and true expression of her being.
What was so interesting to me was that when Jesse would share her dreams, I would have no idea what they meant. In fact, at times I would swallow hard and think to myself ‘oh shit how will I ever interpret this one’! But the analytic method always rang true and on a number of occasion Jesse and I would be staring at each other at the end of the session, in disbelief as a nonsensical and violent nightmare had been transformed into something beautiful and profound. For my own part, I just copied what I had learned in PPTP and in supervision.
By the time Jesse finished therapy (50 sessions in all), her OQ-45 score (OQ-45 is a symptom severity measure) had dropped from 100 to 60 (A reliable indices of change is 10 points). Her paranoia all but disappeared and her anger became something she could recognize and work with. She left with a sense of accomplishment, with a positive view of therapy and the knowledge that she could return anytime if she so desired. In the final session of my own supervision at MPSI, I shared that I felt like I had been given a priceless gift. ‘Like keys to the kingdom’. Thank you MPSI for the amazing service you provide to people in need and the training you facilitate for the next generation of analytic psychologists.