Slouching toward Integration: Psychoanalysis and Religion in Dialogue

By Strawn, Brad D. | Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Slouching toward Integration: Psychoanalysis and Religion in Dialogue


Strawn, Brad D., Journal of Psychology and Theology


This article traces the changing relationship between psychoanalysis and religion by paralleling it with the author's own journey of faith and psychology. Contemporary psychoanalytic models (e.g. relational) have evolved, making psychoanalysis more accessible to psychotherapists as well as allowing more meaningful integration with religion. As Relational models have gained prominence, however, some of the gems from earlier models of analysis are in danger of being lost. A case is presented to demonstrate the challenge of not throwing out the "baby with the bathwater" as well as some of the particular difficulties religious therapists may have working with patients.

Prologue to Special Issue

This special volume of JPT is dedicated to the memory of Randall Lehmann Sorenson, Professor of Psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology, Training and Supervising analyst at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, and private practitioner in Pasadena, California. Randy died suddenly in 2005, well before his time. His intellectual brilliance, deep Christian commitment, and warm welcoming spirit live on in his family and in the many students and colleagues that he touched. His influence is acutely present in the articles contained in this volume.

Randy was a leading thinker and writer in the integration of psychology and religion. He modeled the best of the Boulder model by publishing research that was both theoretical and empirical. His book Minding Spirituality (2004) was a tour de force in the conversation between psychoanalysis and religion and was critically acclaimed by both religious and secular clinicians. This volume focuses on one of Randy's greatest intellectual loves--the integration of Christian faith and psychoanalysis.

In spite of all his accomplishments, perhaps what people most remember about Randy was what it was like to be in his presence. When I think of how Randy interacted with people I am reminded of a quote from the psychoanalyst Hans Loewald in his famous paper, "On the Therapeutic Action of Psychoanalysis." Loewald compares the analytic relationship to a parent child relationship.

The parent ideally is in an empathic relationship of understanding the
child's particular stage in development, yet ahead in his vision of the
child's future and mediating this vision to the child in his dealing
with him. This vision, informed by the parent's own experience and
knowledge of growth and future, is, ideally, a more articulate and more
integrated version of the core of being that the child presents to the
parent. This "more" that the parent sees and knows, he mediates to the
child so that the child in identification with it can grow. The child,
by internalizing aspects of the parent, also internalizes the parent's
image of the child--an image that is mediated to the child in a thousand
different ways of being handled, bodily and emotionally. (1980, p. 229)

Randy had a unique way of envisioning what and who the other might become and communicating that in a myriad of ways. This was never coercive but a welcoming "transitional space" in which one could try on the vision and keep what fit and discard what didn't. We will all miss Randy's vision for others, vision for psychology and religion, and his commitment to Christ and the church. To borrow from Loewald (1980) again, Randy will live on as an ancestor to all who have interest in integration.

Introduction

There may be readers who would not read an article like this one simply because the word psychoanalysis is in the title. They may preemptively decide that psychoanalysis is a dead school of thought that has essentially been abandoned. (In fact, if your source on what is happening in psychotherapy is undergraduate textbooks you would be justified in arriving at these conclusions). These skeptics may allow that some therapists utilize certain analytic concepts like transference and countertransference, but still believe that on the whole psychoanalysis has died a slow and painful death. …

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