CMHC Outreach

A Program to Introduce Psychodynamic Consultation to Community Mental Health Centers

In keeping with our mission -- to explore ways in which psychoanalytic thinking and practice can be applied to the broader community -- our Section has launched a new initiative to provide pro bono one on one psychodynamic clinical consultation to staff therapists in a large community mental health center on Long Island.   Our partner in this venture, The Family Service League Mental Health clinic in Huntington N.Y., has committed its entire staff to attend a daylong onsite workshop on January 20, 2017,  which will be followed by ongoing individual clinical consultations with ten members of the clinical staff and two staff supervisors.   We estimate that each consultant and therapist will have a total of forty sessions in the course of the next year.  

Supervisory support is essential in helping early career professionals in particular meet the daily challenges of their work:  developing clinical skills, maintaining job satisfaction, and minimizing burn-out.  At the same time, for those who work in the public sector, more often than not, the requirements for agency supervisors include overseeing paperwork and meeting governmental criteria, with less emphasis on the treatment itself.   The therapists and the staff supervisors at the Family Service League (just as the clinical staff in CMHCs everywhere) are so squeezed by meeting productivity and paperwork requirements that there is rarely an opportunity for therapists to discuss actual cases, to reflect on their experience with the patient, and to think about the patient's experience with them, (which are among the basics of psychodynamic supervision).

As the pressure to meet state regulations mounts, the emphasis on Cognitive Behavioral Therapies continues unabated, knowledge about and the ability to practice psychodynamically has all but disappeared.  With this intervention, we hope to demonstrate to the directors of CMHCs in the not-for-profit sector,  regardless of discipline, that psychodynamic training and treatment is relevant to the populations they serve. We are aware that this latter goal is a tall order, however we have been encouraged by the enthusiastic welcome we have received from the management and clinical supervisors at the Family Service League.  They are only too aware of the challenges facing their staff and the demoralization that threatens.  

The consultants, to whom we are eternally grateful and without whom we would not have a program, are members of the Division 39 community from across the country.  They are senior psychoanalysts who share our concern about the lack of interest in psychodynamic work in the public sector and share our hope that this program and others like it will start to reverse this trend.  They generously volunteered their time when this initiative was announced.

Since this is a pilot study which we hope will be replicated in other sites, we are carefully documenting this year’s proceedings and will make that documentation available online to interested parties.  A research component is planned with data collection beginning in January 2017 and ending a year later. The research instruments include before and after quantitative measures of professional development, therapists’ work involvement, and a working alliance inventory; customized qualitative measures will also be administered at the conclusion of the study.

This initiative began when Section V board member, Larry Rosenberg, Ph.D., asked himself how to reverse the trend toward CBT and persuade the directors of CMHCs in the not-for-profit sector, regardless of discipline, that psychodynamic training and treatment is relevant to the populations they serve.  It is a tall order, but the reception we received and the willingness to cooperate with us are very heartening.  When we announced this program in March 2016, we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of colleagues volunteering to offer consultations or to work in the program in some capacity.  If you would like to volunteer to work in this program, please be in touch with Larry Rosenberg: or Ghislaine Boulanger: 

Come and meet the principals and hear them describe the program and how it is working so far at the Division 39 meetings in New York in April 2017.

 CMHC Progress Report

February, 2017

The pilot study for the Section V initiative bringing psychodynamic consultations to community mental health centers got off to an exciting start on Friday January 20th with a daylong workshop attended by clinic staff and administrators at the Family Service League Mental Health Clinic in Huntington, L.I.  Two live consultations, one conducted by Bruce Grellong, and the second by Kirkland Vaughans, one with a member of the supervisory staff, the other with a staff therapist, were preceded by a PowerPoint presentation and general discussion about the principles of psychodynamic treatment  given by Steven Spitz.  We were delighted by the staff’s enthusiasm about the program.

And now weekly consultations have begun!  Ten staff therapists and two supervisors have been paired with individual consultants, volunteers from a number of psychoanalytic organizations and institutes.  Each pair will meet weekly (sometimes in person, sometimes by phone, sometimes by facetime) for at least 40 sessions in the next 12 months.  Unofficially the feedback from both therapists and consultants has been has been very heartening so far.

We are grateful to the following consultants who are volunteering their time and making this project possible: Carl Bagnini, Virginia Goldner, Bruce Grellong, Jane Hassinger, Robert Keisner, Stephen H. Portuges, Larry Rosenberg, Burton N. Seitler, Lare Sheehi, Hillary Siegel, Karen Weiss, and Michael Zentman.  

Many thanks to the administrators at the Family Service League who saw this project as a great opportunity for their staff.  And thanks are also due to the staff who are meeting with the consultants on their own time.

The Workshop was underwritten by a grant from the FAR Fund Foundation, their support was crucial.

To read more about this program, go to the CMHC page on this website.

For details about our Roundtable at the Division of Psychoanalysis spring meetings in April 2017, in which we shall be reporting on the program’s first few months, check the Panels and Roundtables box on the Home page of this website.     

Contact:  Ghislaine Boulanger: or Larry Rosenberg:


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