This article, Psychoanalysts in the popular media, was previously published in the Newsletter of the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute.
Psychoanalysts in the popular media
As psychoanalysts, increasingly, we are reaching out to the public to educate the laity as to how, and for whom, psychoanalysis can be helpful. Many psychoanalysts teach at the university level. Others provide both organizational and case-based, consultation. There are some psychoanalysts in the popular media. Still many find it intimidating. Fortunately, with a little bit of information, their fears can be overcome.
It’s important to have psychoanalysts in the popular media. As a psychoanalyst, you can publish work in the popular media.
In order to be successful in this endeavor consider taking 4 steps:
- Select a topic with broad public appeal.
- Present in an open, non-threatening way
- Effectively pursue publication.
- Recognize the importance and benefits of your efforts
Each will be addressed in turn.
Select a topic with broad public appeal
Select a topic that reflects your interest and expertise. Write about one of your special professional interests or about your favorite avocation. An artist might write about art and a policy wonk about politics. Choose a topic with broad, appeal. For example, topics such as, dating, marriage, commitment, divorce, exercise, dieting, parenting, politics, T.V. violence, image and work may sustain general interest.
Write in an open, non-threatening way
Just as, in the consulting room, we establish a rapport and we work to make sure that our interpretations are, “experience near,” this is even more important in writing for the popular media and in working with editors. It is essential to introduce analytic understandings gradually and only after establishing credibility with editors and readers. In my opinion, the key here is not to psychopathologize. Instead, present psychoanalytic ideas as they apply, and are useful, in everyday life.
For example, in writing about dieting and exercise, one might address the psychological benefits of normal dieting and exercise. In the initial articles for a publication, the writer might make only brief mention of dieting and exercise gone awry. Once several articles have been well-received, the writer might gradually shift to a more psychoanalytic focus and examine the psychodynamics underlying eating-disordered behavior.
There are many psychoanalytic concepts of great interest to the laity. Describing and elaborating these concepts in lay terms can be very helpful. When presenting the idea that symptoms can be both adaptive and maladaptive, it’s important to recognize the understanding of both the self-protective as well as the self-sabotaging aspects. The writer might address the notion of compromise formations as it relates to their topic. For example, in writing about relationships, one might examine why some individuals consistently make choices that lead to happiness and others make choices that lead to misery. A few sentences about how and why psychodynamic psychotherapy or psychoanalysis might be helpful in such a situation will provide an important public service.
Getting Your Articles Published
You have selected a topic. You have planned a series of articles. How do you get published in the popular media? There are many different strategies that you might pursue. First, consider the readers whom you might like to reach. What publications do they read? Review these publications. How long are the articles? How are they written? Where might your work be incorporated? Do you want to be paid for your efforts? Or, is the increased visibility, for yourself and the institute, enough compensation? The answers to these questions will dictate the strategy that you select. Here are some possible methods:
- Generate a series of articles, and post them on your web site. List your site with the major search engines. Make it easy for publishers to reach find you and reach you; and publishers may come to you.
- Directly contact organizations that might be interested in your topic, and invite them to link to your web site.
- Submit your articles, directly, to the editors of magazines and newspapers that publish similar pieces.
Submit your articles to the newsletters of adjacent professional groups. For example, if you write on eating and exercise, you could offer to write a column in a newsletter written for dieticians or health club members. Parenting columns could be published in a newsletter for parents without partners, and articles on dating could be published in the newsletters of singles clubs.
- Participate in listservs where people share your interest in this topic. When the topic is addressed, reference your own web site.
- Participate on electronic message boards. If you are consistent in your participation, the editors will see your work and you may be invited to play a more formal role.
Your decision as to whether you seek compensation will dictate which strategies you may consider. Many publications can not afford to pay freelancers. If this is the case, consider bartering, ask for advertisement space, or a link to your psychoanalytic clinic in exchange for your copy.
Benefits derived from writing
There are many benefits of writing for the popular media, for both you and your institute. Your efforts will culminate in public speaking engagements, visibility and referral. You will have helped to demystify psychoanalysis. Also, you will have take an important step toward familiarizing people with the helpfulness of our profession. This type of exposure ultimately may attract students, candidates and philanthropists who, in turn, might collaborate with us in our efforts to secure a future for psychoanalysis.
Reaching out to me: 301.656.9650
I’m in full-time private practice on the border of Washington, DC, (Chevy Chase, Maryland) where I provide psychodynamic therapy, psychoanalysis, career & executive counseling and clinical supervision. Beyond this, I enjoy working with psychoanalytic institutes, centers and individuals on advocating for psychoanalysis.