This article, Psychoanalytic Advocacy: How a Psychoanalyst can become a university lecturer, was originally published in The Analyst’s Advocate a column in the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute’s newsletter.
Teaching is one way to heighten public awareness of psychoanalysis. It can lead to consultative relationships, referrals and opportunities to engage in meaningful research collaborations with non-analytic colleagues. These activities, when well done, can culminate in visibility, recognition and credibility. But, where, what and at what level might one teach? How might those who prefer only to give a few lectures a year proceed? How does one go about obtaining an adjunct university appointment? How does one negotiate salary? Prior to arriving on campus, what steps might one take in order increase the likelihood of a favorable reception? And, finally and importantly, how might one “witness” for psychoanalysis? Each will be addressed in turn.
Traditionally, psychoanalysts have taught primarily in clinical settings such as schools of medicine within departments of psychiatry, schools of social work or in departments of psychology. While reaching out to these groups is vitally important, we need not limit ourselves to these traditional venues. In fact, there is every reason to extend the traditional boundaries of our outreach efforts to embrace a broader audience. There are many academic arenas in which we can make a contribution. These include, schools of: public health, public policy, business, organizational development/human resources, dentistry, chiropractics, physical therapy, pastoral care, education and law as well as liberal arts departments, such as: literature, drama, sociology, journalism, philosophy, political science, women’s studies, African American studies, history and art.
Psychoanalysts can offer expertise in many areas. In particular, two kinds of expertise stand out: knowledge of theories of human behavior and skill in communications (i.e. interviewing). Accounting for, and addressing, the vagaries of human behavior is the focus of many non-clinical departments, such as drama, history, philosophy and literature. Similarly, teaching students effective communication and interviewing skills is important to virtually any discipline that trains students to interact with the public. For example, those conducting research or seeking information might greatly benefit from coursework in interviewing, process consultation and/or communication skills. And, who is better qualified to teach these courses then a psychoanalyst?
Historically, psychoanalysts have taught clinicians primarily at the graduate, post-graduate and advanced post-graduate levels. Some psychoanalysts have the bias that the higher the educational level the more prestigious the post. This is unfortunate inasmuch as the earlier we have an impact the more influential we can be.
The “undergraduate psychology department as a site of advocacy for psychoanalysis” will be focus of a future column. It should be noted that teaching at the undergraduate level is important for two reasons. First, this is a time when students begin to formulate their career plans. Those who are applying to graduate school must select the theoretical orientation of their graduate programs. Because psychoanalysis is not always represented, the best and the brightest may be lured elsewhere. Second, many undergraduates enter psychology courses to better understand themselves. Consequently, they may seek treatment as an adjuvant to this experience. In fact, many approach their abnormal psychology professor for referrals. Yet, typically their instructors are not psychoanalysts. Consequently, treatment recommendations and decisions are made without any awareness of, or knowledge about, the availability and/or efficacy of psychoanalytic treatments. This is unfortunate in as much as many might find these treatments quite helpful.
If you are unsure about whether you will enjoy teaching then consider being a guest lecturer. If you know people involved in full-time academia then you might offer to do an interesting guest lecture for a colleague’s class. But, what if you are not connected to anyone in academia? Or, what if you want to reach out beyond the traditional scope of your discipline? What if you are a physician who wants to teach undergraduates? Or, what if you are a social worker who wants to teach dentists? Teaching in a discipline outside of your own is a relatively easy goal to achieve.
Decide what university population could benefit from your talk. That is, in what department would you like to lecture? In what course(s)? Obtain a copy of the course catalogue. Read about the program in which you wish to teach. Review the text that the students are reading. Pick a topic that interests you and do a literature review. In bringing people to psychoanalysis, it is important to be conversant not only with the analytic literature but also with the literature that that they are assimilating in their coursework. In that way, you can help students to translate their current theoretical understanding into psychoanalytic terms. Conversely, you can help students to translate psychoanalytic theory into everyday language. Also, go to the bookstore and review assigned texts for the course. If your topic will be new to their curriculum then make the case for why your lecture might be relevant and useful.
Obtain a listing of faculty within the program. Learn about the faculty person who is teaching the course in which you would like to lecture. Anticipate that in order gain entry into the university setting you may have to make 4-5 contacts. One way to accomplish this expeditiously is to contact several faculty teaching the same course either within one university or across campuses.
Odds are, if you are giving a lecture that will help liberal arts students to deepen their understanding of human behavior then you will be well-received. Similarly, if your talk helps students in more applied disciplines to improve their interactions with customers, clients, research subjects or patients, then faculty will be eager to incorporate your offering in their courses.
Universities and their individual departments differ markedly in the ways and the extent to which they use adjunct faculty. If you do not have a history of teaching at the university level then it is important to document your effectiveness in this arena. Stellar teaching evaluations, even from analytic candidates, can provide compelling evidence of your skill. Also, ask those for whom you have guest lectured to provide references for you. In fact, when you guest lecture you may want to garner further testimony of your skill: ask students to complete evaluations. Establish relationships with those in a position to hire you and make them aware of your availability. In particular, let them know if you are willing to teach if they find themselves “in a pinch”. Helping out in this situation is an excellent way to convey your commitment to teaching.
If your primary teaching experience has been at the institute or in medical schools then you are in for a pleasant surprise. At universities, adjuncts get paid! Albeit this is not a lucrative enterprise, but they do get paid. The amounts paid vary as a function of the discipline, the school, the department and the adjunct faculty person. My informal research in the Washington, D.C. area reveals that adjunct salaries vary from $10000.00 per course, at some business schools, to $1500.00 per course at some community colleges. Don’t discuss it with the decision maker until you have learned about the salary ranges for adjuncts. After clarifying that, present yourself as someone by virtue of his/her experience (i.e. years and years and years of extensive, training) is seasoned and who, consequently, warrants top pay. If compensation is inconsequential to you then consider donating the salary to our low fee clinic.
If the university setting is new to you then it is important to learn as much as you can about it prior to the start of the semester. Subscribe to the student newspaper. In this way, you will be aware of some of the “goings on” on campus. Using case examples from the paper to explicate analytic concepts, you can make the material come alive. Consider observing a few classes in the department. If you can, talk with full-time faculty and fellow adjuncts to learn more about the university culture and mores. Before preparing your syllabus look at the requirements in comparable courses. Initially, it is a good idea to make your expectations consistent with those of your colleagues.
How one goes about extolling the virtues of psychoanalysis is very much a matter of personal style and taste. Often the ideas that you present will be compelling and students may approach you to learn about more comprehensive training in this area. If the interest is great, consider recommending that the department offer a course on applied psychoanalysis. Alternatively, you may want to make students aware of the plethora of continuing education programs both within our institute and others in the area. Also, consider describing, and even advocating for, our reduced fee clinic.
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